FC SCHALKE 04
Founded: May 4, 1904
Club Members: 160,023
Nickname: Die Knappen
Coach: Thomas Reis
Captain: Danny Latza
German Champions / Bundesliga: 7
Bundesliga.2 Champions: 3
German Super Cup Winners: 1
UEFA Cup: 1
Western German Cup: 1
Once known as the 'City of a Thousand Fires' thanks to its coal mining heritage, the city of Gelsenkirchen is home to FC Schalke 04 - one of the footballing giants that today rule an area of the Ruhr known as Der Pott (The Pit).
The club was formed in 1904 as Westfalia Schalke by a group of local high school students led by Willi Gies and having been rebuffed in their efforts to join the Westdeutscher Spielverband, spent their early years in one the 'wild associations' of early German football. By 1924, the club had taken its present day name and, because so many of its players and fans worked in the coal mines, had also acquired the nickname Die Knappen - an old German term for miners. They became the dominant local side, winning the top-flight Gauliga Ruhr in 1927 with a innovative tactic called the Schalker Kreisel which used short, sharp, man-to-man passing with players constantly rotating and moving to create space.
In 1928, looking to build on their early success, the club moved into a new stadium called the Glückhauf-Kampfbahn and followed this up with their first German championship a year later. Schalke however have long been a club associated with scandal, and in 1930 were sanctioned for exceeding a salary cap to players. Professional sport was considered an anathema at the time and Schalke's treasurer, Willie Nier, felt so ashamed that he committed suicide by drowning himself in the Rhein-Herne-Canal. The club were duly banned from competing for six months, although this had little effect on the club's popularity with 70,000 fans flocking to the Glückauf for their first game back against Fortuna Düsseldorf. The following years saw the club's golden period and with early stars of the game like Fritz Thelen, Ernst Kuzzora and Fritz Szepan leading them on the pitch, Schalke became German Champions in 1934, 1935, 1937, 1939, 1940 and 1942. They became the first German club to win the double when the DFB-Pokal was lifted in 1937 as the Köningsblauen (Royal Blues) enjoyed a remarkable run that boasted an unbeaten home record and only six away defeats between 1933-45. Such was the club's dominance at the time that the Nazi regime held Schalke up as an example of the 'New Germany'.
When football resumed following the chaos of World War 2, Schalke largely picked up where they had left off, performing strongly and winning another national championship in 1958. It was no surprise therefore that they were invited to join the new Bundesliga in 1963 and, although they found the first few years difficult, by the beginning of the 1970s they were once again beginning to assert themselves as a football power. However, they became embroiled in the Bundesligaskandal of 1971 and were found guilty of accepting a DM 40,000 bribe to throw a match to save Armenia Bielefeld from relegation. It was a nationwide scandal with as many as 50 players and managers from other clubs being implicated, but it was only Schalke who were punished and several of their players, including German internationals 'Stan' Libuda, Klaus Fichtel and Klaus Fischer (the latter is still Schalke’s record goal scorer and is best remembered for striking a memorable bicycle kick goal in the classic 1982 World Cup semi-final against France) were initially banned for life. The club were dubbed 'FC Meineid' (FC Perjury) by rival fans and although the penalties were later reduced on appeal, the damage had been done and the lights went out on a potential new dawn of Schalke dominance.
Despite moving into the newly built 70,000 capacity Parkstadion in 1973, Schalke began to struggle and in 1982 Die Knappen were relegated from the Bundesliga. This triggered a yo-yo period which saw the club either promoted or relegated in five of the next eleven seasons before steadying the ship following a return to the top-flight in 1992. Under Dutch coach Huub Stevens, they lifted their first silverware in 25 years with a penalty shoot-out victory over Inter Milan in the 1997 UEFA Cup final, earning themselves in the process the new nickname of 'Euro Fighters' on account of Stevens' rigid defensive football. In fact, his maxim "Die Null Muß Stehen ! " ("The zero must stand !") has since found its way into everyday German language and he's become a cult figure amongst the Schalke support.
Quickfire DFB-Pokal trophies were won in 2001 and 2002 but despite the promise, the Bundesliga title continued to elude the men from Gelsenkirchen and they began to establish their lamentable moniker of 'Meister der Herzen ' (The People's Champions) - coming so-near-yet-so-far in a number of title races before ultimately missing out on the big prize. The worst case of 'Schalke-itis' (the act of screwing up when so close to victory) came in 2001 when, having won their final match to claim what they thought was their first Bundesliga title, amidst the celebrations beamed live on TV across Germany came news that Bayern München's Patrik Anderson had scored an injury-time equaliser at Hamburger SV to snatch top spot for the Bavarians. They came close again in 2007, only for fierce rivals Borussia Dortmund to beat them 2-0 in the title run-in and open the door for VfB Stuttgart to steal the glory instead. Dortmund fans didn't let Schalke forget it either - flying a plane over the Veltins Arena the following season with a banner that read "Ein Leben lang, keine Schale in der Hand" ("an entire life without the plate in your hand").
After making his fortune as Germany's "Meat Baron", billionaire Clemens Tönnies became Schalke's de facto club boss in 2006 and immediately strained relations with German football's second largest fanbase as the club, revered for its working-class roots and traditionalism, signed a sponsorship deal through Vladimir Putin with Russian energy giant Gazprom. Despite the protests, the deal helped finance the signings of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Raúl González who dovetailed to devastating effect as the early years of the Tömmies era were defined by consistent top-four finishes and European appearances including a Champions League semi-final against Manchester United in 2011. The 6-1 defeat against the competition's eventual runners-up and Premier League champions that year was dismal, but the future looked bright for the 'Royal Blues' who travelled to Berlin a couple of weeks later and returned with silverware after a 5-0 win over MSV Duisburg in the DFB-Pokal final.
Since that Pokal victory however, chaos and disorder have come to characterise Schalke as a chronic dearth of foresight, knowledge and leadership on the part of the club hierarchy saw the likes of Sead Kolasinac, Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg, Mesut Özil, Leroy Sané, Joel Matip, Max Meyer, Breel Embolo and Leon Goretzka leave for free or for pitiful transfer fees having been allowed to run their contracts down. Weakened by departures, deprived of transfer income and without the appeal or funds to attract quality replacements, the first team soon became a mix of overpromoted hopefuls and underpowered journeymen as Schalke began a derailment from reliable top-five finisher into the mud of mid-table obscurity.
A second-place Bundesliga finish in 2018 was nothing more than a papering over the cracks and it was little surprise when the seven-time German champions were given a 7-0 Champions League mauling by Manchester City the following season and finished just five points clear of relegation in the Bundesliga. Things had begun to unravel off the pitch too with overextension and mismanagement bringing Schalke to the brink of financial ruin with debts of over €200 million threatening to swallow them up. The COVID-19 pandemic hit at a bad time therefore and to kick them while they were down, the bleak Geisterspiele season saw most of the 2020-21 campaign played out behind closed doors with the club losing a reported €2 million of vital revenue per home match. Like many other clubs, Schalke took steps to save money including requests that season ticket holders waive, or at least defer, reimbursement for matches they would no longer be able to attend. But they went a step further by asking fans to submit financial proof of why they couldn't afford to waive their refunds. For Schalke, a club which prides itself on its working-class heritage and family values, it was a PR disaster with the 'S04 Ultras Gelsenkirchen' calling their club "morally bankrupt."
In the end, there are only so many times you can cheat fate if you repeatedly court disaster and on 20th April 2021 - after a despondent campaign which started with an 8-0 walloping at Bayern München and saw Schalke come within 90 minutes of matching Tasmania Berlin's 31-game winless run record - one of the biggest names in German football were relegated from the Bundesliga after a 1-0 defeat at Arminia Bielefeld. At least they went out with a bang though - celebratory fireworks set off over Gelsenkirchen by goading Dortmund fans as anger and frustration at the club's dramatic collapse saw the players given 'a warm reception' by 600 Schalke ultras on their return from Bielefeld that night. Their exile was brief however and they secured a return to the top-flight by lifting the Bundesliga.2 title in 2022.
Despite the disappointments and scandal however, FC Schalke 04 are a club that every fan would agree 'belongs' in the Bundesliga and one of the reasons why 'The Pit' remains such a hotbed of German football.
Ground Name: Veltins Arena
Architect: Hentich - Petschnigg & Partner
Built: 1998 - 2001
Year Opened: 2001
Capacity: 62,271 (16,309 standing)
Executive Boxes: 81
Executive Box Seats: 900
Construction Costs: €191m
UEFA Stadium Category: Elite
Undersoil Heating: Yes
Running Track: No
Playing Surface: Natural Grass
Pitch Size: 105m x 68m
Glückauf-Kampfbahn (1928 - 1973)
Parkstadion (1973 - 2001)
Arena AufSchalke (2001 - 2005)
Veltins Arena (2005 - ) *
* Stadium Renamed
Built at a cost of €191 million and opened in 2001 with disgraced FIFA President Sepp Blatter gushing "The world has not seen a stadium like this", the Veltins Arena replaced Schalke's outdated former home the Parkstadion, a corner kick away across the club's Berger Feld complex. Two coal mines - "Consolidation" and "Hugo" - run under the stadium at a depth of 800 metres and to avoid subsidence undermining the structural integrity of the new arena, designers had to rotate its axis from the classic North-South arrangement to a Northeast-Southwest alignment.
Originally called the Arena AufSchalke before a sponsorship deal was struck with German brewery Veltins in 2005, it was the first of a new generation of German stadia built ahead of the 2006 World Cup and a blueprint for the 'two-tier, continuous seat, enclosed bowl' design we see in stadiums today. In addition to becoming FC Schalke 04's new home, it was the venue for the 2004 UEFA Champions League Final before hosting five matches in the 2006 World Cup - including the England v Portugal quarter-final made famous by Cristiano Ronaldo's 'wink'.
Its multi-use design means that on approach the stadium isn't immediately recognisable as a football ground, and with it's retractable glass fibre roof closed and a massive video cube hanging high above the centre circle there is a distinct feel of this being more like an indoor arena. In addition, the support structure needed for the massive roof means that your view of the action from high in the upper tiers may not be so great. Despite the drawbacks though, the stadium's size is certainly impressive and its party piece - a fully retractable pitch - sets it apart from most other new builds, not to mention the player's tunnel which Schalke have transformed into a replica mine shaft as a tribute to Gelsenkirchen's proud industrial heritage.
In a stadium named after a brewery, it's no surprise that its beer is everywhere, and thirsty fans get through over 50,000 litres of Veltins every match which is supplied through a 5km-long pipeline.
Schalke's home end is the Nordkurve (North Stand) with S04 Ultras Gelsenkirchen gathering on the lower tier in support of The Pitmen, belting out noisy renditions of 'Das Steigerland', 'Steht Auf, Wenn Ihr Schalke Seid' and the simple terrace favourite of 'Schaaaaaaaaaaaaal-ke!' The away following are allocated the southeast corner of Südkurve where there is a terrace in the lower tier and seating above.
In addition to hosting football, the stadium is also used as a concert venue with the likes of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC, U2, Pink and Rammstein rocking up here on their world tours. Other events held here include Motorcycle Speedway events, the 2010 Ice Hockey World Championships and the 2018 German Darts Masters which saw a record attendance for a darts event.
2021-2022: 33,566 (Bundesliga.2) *
2020-2021: N/A *
2019-2020: 46,704 (Bundesliga) *
2018-2019: 61,069 (Bundesliga)
2017-2018: 61,331 (Bundesliga)
* Season affected by COVID pandemic
Expected Ticket Availability
This is one of the most popular clubs in Germany and film fans may recall that the crew in Das Boot, the classic film about a U-boat, were all Schalke fans. So, despite fluctuating on-field fortunes, demand for tickets remains high and some matches will be hard to get hold of if you're not a season ticket holder or club member. Tickets should be available if you're quick off the mark when they go on sale though and Schalke's online ticket shop provides information in English, or you could give the helpful staff a ring or send them an email explaining what you're after.
For the 2022-23 season, Schalke have done away with the ABC approach to categorising matches they've used in the past and ticket prices will depend instead on where you want to watch the action from.
The online ticket shop is the best place to make sense of it, but broadly speaking, expect to pay €26 - €52 for seats and €15.50 to stand on the terraces. Given the expected demand though, it's unlikely that you'll have much of a choice and it would be advisable to grab any reasonably priced ticket offered to you.
The club operates its own Ticket Exchange site and so this is a good place to head if you've ignored our advice about being quick to buy tickets and looking to attend a match that has already sold-out. More information can be found here.
Information about visiting the Veltins Arena for fans with disabilities can be found at:
PLEASE NOTE: All information in this section is subject to change due to COVID regulations. Please refer to the club website for the latest ticket information.
GETTING THERE & AWAY
Rudi Assauer Platz 1
If you're travelling by car along the A2, take either exit 6 (Gelsenkirchen-Buer) or 7 (Herten). Coming from the A42, you need exit 16 (Gelsenkirchen-Zentrum) or 17 (Gelsenkirchen-Schalke). From the junctions just follow the signs to the Veltins Arena. There are 14,000 free parking spaces at the ground and car parks A,B,C1,C2,C3, Kinocenter are accessed via Adenauerallee 110; and car parks D1,D2,D3,D4,E1 and E2 are via Willy Brandt Allee 50.
Match tickets can be used to travel to and from the Veltins Arena anywhere within the Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr (VRR) region until 3am the following day. From the basement floor of Gelsenkirchen Hauptbahnhof, tram 302 (Direction: Gelsenkirchen-Buer) takes 15 minutes to reach the Veltins Arena stop at the stadium. This station isn't suitable for people with reduced mobility however and the advice from Schalke is to get off instead at the 'Willy Brandt Allee' stop which is only slightly further away from the stadium.
Schalke encourage fans to be environmentally friendly by cycling to the match. 600 bikes can be stored at the stadium in front of Tunnel 1 and behind the 'Kasse Ost'.
FAN SHOP, MUSEUM & STADIUM TOURS
There are a number of places around Gelsenkirchen where you can buy all your royal blue and white souvenirs.
The S04 Fan Shop Arena is located at the Veltins Arena (Ernst Kuzorra Weg 1, 45891 Gelsenkirchen; 10am-6pm, Mon-Fri; 10am-2pm, Sat; open on matchdays until kick-off).
Additional fan shops can be found at:
S04 Fan Shop Innenstadt (Ahstraße 4, 45879 Gelsenkirchen; 10am-6pm, Mon-Fri; 10am-2pm, Sat)
S04 Fan Shop Centro Oberhausen (Centroallee 94, 46047 Oberhausen; 10am-8pm, Mon-Sat)
The small Schalke Museum has exhibits dedicated to everything Schalke from 1904 onwards. It can be found at the Veltins Arena, Staircase 12, entrance via WEST 1 (Adult/concession €5/€3;10am-5pm Tue-Sun).
A number of guided arena tours are conducted and include a visit to the multi-faith chapel near the dressing rooms. Over 3000 weddings, baptisms and anniversaries have been celebrated here since it was inaugurated in August 2001. All tours also include admission to the Schalke Museum.
Information about them all and how to book can be found here.
FOOD & DRINK OPTIONS
There aren't many pre-match food and drink options in the area surrounding the stadium, so many fans jump on tram 302 and head for one of the traditional Schalke bars like Bosch 04 on Ernst Kuzorra Platz in Gelsenkirchen. In fact, right next to 'the Bosch' you can have a look at Schalke's original stadium - the old Glückauf-Kampfbahn.
It's actually a good idea to have your fill of food and drink in the pubs of Gelsenkirchen because Schalke introduced a pay card system a few years ago called Knappenkarte, which like most stadium payment card schemes in German football attracts criticism. There is no cash payment possible inside the arena and so to pay for your half-time bratwurst and pint of Veltins, you have to load the Knappenkarte with credit.
The problem comes when fans try to get the balance often left on the card after a match converted back to real cash. Clubs, unsurprisingly, don't make this easy and many people end up not bothering and forfeiting the credit. This 'slumber penny' ends up being quite lucrative for clubs and in 2009, an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper reported that FC Schalke 04 made an extra €700,000 that year because people didn't spend their plastic money.
OTHER CLUBS IN THE AREA
BUNDESLIGA: 1.FC Köln, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Borussia Dortmund, VfL Bochum
BUNDESLIGA 2: DSC Arminia Bielefeld, Fortuna Düsseldorf, SC Paderborn 07
3.LIGA: Borussia Dortmund II, FC Viktoria Köln, MSV Duisburg, Rot Weiss Essen, SC Verl