Back in the autumn of 2017, Borussia Dortmund held a competition by the name of "BVB for amateurs". Football clubs from across Westphalia were invited to send in applications for project funding, which would be taken from a pot of €215,000. Eleven clubs ultimately received amounts ranging from €2,500 to €42,000. Most of the money has long since been put to good use, as is the case at SV Hüsten 09 in Hochsauerland. FSV Witten 07/82, however, have also shown that it sometimes isn't so easy to spend money: the plans in the nearby town have yet to materialise. And the club certainly aren't to blame...
It's clear that an intelligent individual with a real flair for language sat down to have a good think about this one. Because, at the end of the day, surely there is no name more apt and more original for a football grand than this: Große Wiese (German for big field!) It's not all that dissimilar to the name of Borussia Dortmund's first-ever ground, Weiße Wiese (white field). But, more than anything else, it evokes the romance of football. Big field - if ever there were stadium name that brings to mind the smell of freshly-cut grass.
Light comes to the Große Wiese ...
The playing surface at the Große Wiese, which measures 105x68 metres, has certainly seen a lot. A lot of amateur football that is - the ground in the Arnsberg district of Hüsten, surrounded by the densely wooded hills of Hochsauerland, is the home of SV Hüsten. Like BVB, the club was founded back in 1909, but unlike BVB, its colours are not black and yellow, but rather black white and green. The regional league outfit has only been playing at the Große Wiese since the end of the 1970s. But not only them. Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, FC Schalke 04, Ajax and Besiktas have all played friendly matches here in the past, as have the Germany youth and women's teams.
BVB, for example, came to Hüsten in July 2011 as recently-crowned Bundesliga champions. More than 7,000 spectators turned out to watch a match that ended 7-0 in favour of the visitors. It was a memorable backdrop for a game of football, and that was with the ground at only half of its full capacity of 13,500 - roughly 3,500 more than the Rote Erde on the Strobelallee. The Große Wiese boasts a main stand with 2,650 covered seats, as well as standing terraces which can fit approximately 10,000 fans.
Nonetheless, the years had caught up with the Große Wiese by the time that the club's board sent in a project application for the ''BVB for amateurs'' campaign. The floodlights were capable of little more than a dim illumination. The bulbs started going out one after the after, with serious consequences for the club: a planned friendly match between MSV Duisburg and the Premier League's Norwich City had to be moved elsewhere after it was deemed that the level of illumination in the ground fell well below the standards required for TV broadcast in the United Kingdom. The German Football Association took a similar view, indicating to SV Hüsten and Arnsberg council that youth-level international matches would no longer be held at the ground under these conditions. This crushing blow came not long after the club and the council had applied to host two qualification matches for the 2018 U19 Euros...
The funding commitments from BVB thus came at exactly the right time, says Chairman Rainer Müller. SV Hüsten 09 were in need of €20,500 to cover material for the new floodlight system. The costs of installation, as well as the cost of modernising the dressing rooms and renovating the stadium facilities, were borne by the city of Arnsberg. The €18,000 that Borussia Dortmund contributed was almost enough to cover the sum required by the club - the small amount that was left then came from the proceeds of a sponsored run. And so it was that in March 2018, the qualification matches between Germany and Norway and the Netherlands and Scotland were both able to take place on the same day.
"We would have had to modernise the floodlight system either way," says Rainer Müller, chairman of SV Hüsten 09. Without the support of BVB, however, it would have been a huge struggle. The support provided ensured that far fewer people in the club had to suffer sleepless nights. "We can only offer our most sincere thanks to Borussia Dortmund," says Müller. Of course, his favoured way of doing so would be to invite the Black & Yellows to participate in a friendly match. "It would be great to have BVB back as guests," he says. Until then, his club will make intensive use of the new, bright floodlight system and will be happy to move big local league matches to Friday nights so as to avoid clashing with the Bundesliga on Saturday.
...while Witten wait for their artificial grass
So while in Hochsauerland the money from the "BVB for amateurs" campaign has long since been put to good use, those in charge at FSV Witten 07/32 are still awaiting a decision from the local authorities. All they can do is wait. And wait. And wait. The €35,000 sum the club received was the second-largest across the whole project. With interest, it may well have been able to climb up to €36,000 or €37,000. But as it stands, all the cheque can do is sit and gather dust for the time being.
FSV Witten 07/32 are hoping to open a small training area for its junior teams in the immediate vicinity of their home ground, the Wullenstadion, but the Witten city council have yet to approve planning permission. It's a difficult situation. FSV are doing impressive work at youth level. "We have two teams in all age groups," says Johannes Leonard Gabriel, Sporting Director of the club's Youth Department. "We even have three U15 teams at the moment. In total, the youth department has 16 teams. However, the club has to share its training facilities with another club, VfB Annen. The time each club is permitted to use the facility is split equally between both parties - 50/50 - with no consideration given to the fact that FSV run considerably more teams. "Sometimes we have no choice but to train with three teams simultaneously. which means 60 to 70 children are on the one pitch at the same time." Not only is that sub-optimal from a sporting perspective; it also represents a health & safety risk.
Witten city council have also acknowledged that an additional training pitch is required. Consultations were held regarding the possibility of covering the Aschenplatz next to the Wullenstadion with artificial grass. Then it was suggested that the land might be put to better use with the construction of a new fire station. In the end, the fire station proposals prevailed. One-and-a-half years after BVB helped SV Hüsten get their new floodlight system, FSV Witten 07/32 are no closer to achieving their goal of a new training pitch. "The project plan is ready. Cost estimates have been drawn up. Talks with other backers are going well," says Johannes Leonhard Gabriel.
Gabriel hopes that the local authorities will give the project proposal the green light at some point in the coming weeks. Should that transpire, then Borussia Dortmund will be happy to know that the €35,000 they donated have finally been put to good use.