How clean is the sport of pig millionaires? Anti-Tönnies protests by Schalke fans, June 27, 2020

At the “Fall Tönnies” it is currently impressive to study from which cloudy sources the Bundesliga club Schalke 04 obtained its financial security for years. It is no secret that the pork tycoon Clemens Tönnies repeatedly helped with double-digit millions to enable debt restructuring and avert bankruptcies, even if they were not explicitly pecuniary gifts. A straight path leads from the inland system of modern slavery at the »Tönnies Group« to the high-gloss product of the German sports business.

Thanks to Corona, not only soccer fans in the country know how the Schalke longtime supervisory board boss got his estimated 1.3 billion euros in assets, which on June 30, after 19 years, threw the top among the “miners”. The often used word from “Malocherverein” gets a new color after the recent insight into the working conditions at Tönnies’ meat factories. Malocht does not have the kicking professionals on the lawn, but first and foremost those women and men, preferably from Eastern Europe, who, directly or indirectly, get the millions of profits out of the pork bellies through subcontractors in the toughest working environment for the patron.

“Tönnies meat in a cold store populated by rats” was a big headline on Thursday. On Friday, 20 new corona cases were reported in the Rheda-Wiedenbrück slaughterhouse. In the meantime, it was possible to find out on public television how the day-to-day work of Tönnies was. Arriving ten minutes late for the shift means 100 euros deduction from the monthly wages, a Polish employee described the customs. Her colleague held a notice of short-time work in the camera, on which there was neither an appointment for the start or end of short-time work nor the wages for this time. The man, fearful and passed out, had signed the paper as requested. Blank.

Although money supposedly does not stink according to an old Roman proverb, in this case its origin is at least very disreputable. Which, according to the civilization standards of the 21st century, leads to the general question of what money a morally clean sport can take. That means: How clean, fair and morally justifiable are all these huge sums of money that sponsors and advertising partners pump into professional sports so that their company logos can be emblazoned on wide shirt breasts, jersey sleeves or advertising boards and sponsor walls?

Eight years ago, when Werder Bremen brought the largest German poultry farmer and processor on board »Wiesenhof«, vigorous protests aroused among the fans. Seven to eight million euros, which the company allegedly paid per season, weighed heavier for the club. FC Bayern Munich also remains unaffected by Ultras’ continued violent criticism of its ties to the Emirate of Qatar. What does the fate of a few thousand migrant workers count towards good contacts to one of the most generous sports investors of today? Bundesliga club RB Leipzig is one clever marketing construct by the right-wing Austrian beverage company Dietrich Mateschitz, who does not keep behind the mountain with his national-neo-liberal convictions. The construct of older “work clubs” must also be questioned. In addition to Bayer Monsanto or VW “Diesel Scandal”, the anti-fanatical activities of the SAP billionaire and Hoffenheim patron Dietmar Hopp seem almost harmless.

Clemens Tönnies and his company are a particularly striking case, the problem is bigger. It’s about a whole financing model. German professional football repeatedly emphasizes its social importance – time to take it at its word.