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Football Reporting

Borussia Dortmund

Questions and answers in relation to recent events in the BVB Handball department

Over the past few weeks, BVB’s handball department has increasingly been the subject of reports in relation to the events surrounding the women’s handball team. Although it will take some time to fully review what has happened, especially with regard to the implementation of new preventive measures and safety concepts, the Board of Ballspielverein Borussia 09 e.V. Dortmund (“BVB”) is particularly keen to express the club’s sympathy to those affected at this point.

BVB have decided to post some initial answers to the questions below on the homepage. This is also being done in light of the fact that some of these questions have been raised by the members themselves (including and BVB would like to provide information about the current state of affairs in a transparent manner – also with a view to the AGM on 20 November 2022.

1. Since when has the Board been aware of the events in the Handball department?

On 2 September 2022, the Board was informed by the “Support Centre in Cases of Violence” (hereinafter referred to as the “Support Centre”) via email about allegations of female players (who were initially not identified) in connection with the former full-time coach of the BVB women’s handball first team. The Board then instructed the BVB Corporate Responsibility and Legal departments to contact the Support Centre immediately in order to clarify the facts of the case.

In the course of the first telephone conversations, the Support Centre provided specific information regarding the allegations and told the Board of predominantly anonymous allegations by additional parties. While BVB were in discussions with the Support Centre, two players from the BVB squad for the 2022/2023 season issued notices of termination of their contracts on 5 September 2022. BVB initially objected to these resignations for legal reasons, but at the same time suggested that the parties concerned come together for discussions.

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2. When and how did the Board intervene?

Discussions were held with the two players on 12 September 2022 in the presence of representatives of the Board, a representative of the Support Centre, a representative of the State Sports Association of North Rhine-Westphalia and some of the parents of the players involved, as well as legal representatives. On 16 September 2022, the Board held a disciplinary hearing with the former full-time coach of the BVB women’s handball first team. Representatives of the Board, the former head of the Handball department and a lawyer representing the coach attended this meeting.

The Board subsequently assessed the factual and legal situation insofar as this was possible at that time and then took the following interim decision on 19 September 2022: the previous coach was released with immediate effect and the two players were informed that the club would be happy to agree to their transfer requests.

In the following period, the Board continued to work diligently and thoroughly on the processes underlying the situation described above, in dialogue with the Support Centre.

As the players reasserted their desire to leave the club, BVB immediately agreed to conclude an employment termination agreement. Following the media coverage of the situation at that time, the Support Centre received further information in the subsequent period. On 14 October 2022, BVB then also reached an agreement with the head coach to terminate his contract by mutual agreement (see: BVB notification dated 14 October 2022).

On 27 October 2022, Andreas Heiermann, Chairman of the Handball department, tendered his resignation to the Board and resigned from his position with immediate effect. Until further notice, his former deputy, Rupert Thiele, will take over the management of the department on an interim basis. Since November, Henk Groener has been the new head coach of the handball team.

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3. Why have the persons concerned been obliged to observe confidentiality?

As the main allegations received by the Support Centre were only reported to BVB under the condition of absolute anonymity and to protect the personal rights of the persons concerned, there was a risk that it would have been very easy to draw conclusions about the identities of the persons concerned if further detailed information was made available regarding the allegations, events and timeline, particularly given that the world of professional handball in Germany remains a rather small community. BVB therefore additionally ensured the protection of the persons concerned through confidentiality obligations – which are common in the case of employment termination agreements – with former players Amelie Berger and Mia Zschocke, as well as former head coach André Fuhr. These confidentiality obligations were put in place in particular to protect the persons concerned, for whom it was very important that they remain anonymous.

Of course, BVB did not made the signing of a declaration of confidentiality a condition when complying with the wishes of the players Amelie Berger and Mia Zschocke in relation to their release from the club.

In addition, the agreement expressly provides that the obligation to maintain confidentiality may be waived, for example, for the purpose of protecting legitimate interests – and the persons concerned are currently exercising that right.

4. Did the players concerned receive financial support from the club?

Two players were allowed to leave the club “on a free transfer”, without the club acknowledging any legal obligation to do so. Contrary to some reports suggesting otherwise, BVB also assumed the full legal costs of the process.

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5. What is the current status of proceedings?

BVB is still in the process of drawing full and final conclusions, based on the events that have transpired, as part of internal processes – even after the recent personnel changes.

On 10 November 2022, a first workshop was held with a representative of the State Sports Association of North Rhine-Westphalia, representatives of the Corporate Responsibility, Compliance and Legal departments and the BVB external anti-discrimination officer in relation to process optimisation and strategic further development of the existing safety concepts (see also question 6).

In particular, this safety concept will also incorporate insights gained by BVB in the course of personal discussions with the Support Centre, former players and other persons from the world of handball. If persons concerned have asked to remain anonymous, BVB will of course continue to respect their wishes.

BVB welcomes the decision of the German Handball Association (DHB) to set up a review commission and will be happy to provide support if requested by the DHB.

Likewise, BVB will remain in dialogue with the Support Centre in Cases of Violence.

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6. What preventive measures will BVB put in place for the future, also with regard to other departments?

Since the Board resolution in 2019, Borussia Dortmund have been working intensively in relation to the topics of “child protection”, “sexism” and “prevention of sexualised violence in sport”. BVB are receiving advice and support in this undertaking from their cooperation partners, the NRW State Sports Association and the Dortmund  Child Protection Association.

Safety concepts have already been developed for the Youth Performance Centre, the Football Academy, the Women’s Football department, the Fan Affairs department, the nursery and the BVB Kids Club. These will now also be adapted and further developed for other departments, including the Handball department. In addition, plans are being drawn up to define central contact persons that are independent of any single department, to whom affected persons can turn as an independent point of contact, as well as to offer regular training and awareness-raising measures for players, coaches, physios and other employees. The above-mentioned workshop on 10 November 2022 was the first of these planned measures.

Source: BVB

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