The story of Franz Kremer and FC Cologne

Stephen Brandt, an American with a keen interest in European football history, takes a brief look back at Franz Kremer’s time at Cologne.

German history is very interesting to learn about, whether it’s cultural, military or football related. Different iterations of the leagues in Germany have been around for a very long time. Clubs pop up and go away, and there are some clubs who stay around for a while. Franz Kremer was a trailblazer and one of those people who should have stayed around longer. The impact he had was amazing, and the impact he should have had would have been immense.

Franz was born and raised in the Klettenberg area of Cologne. He first picked up a football playing for Kolner TV 1943. Right from the off he became a leading figure at the club, a role he continued at Kolner BC just a year later. From there, he would go from club member to Chairman of the Board. Franz saw the finalisation of the merger between Kolner and SpVgg Sulz 07 to create 1. FC Koln on February 13th, 1948. The founding members appointed Kremer as the first president of the new club.

Kremer set his goals high immediately, by turning the club and – as a result – the rest of the German football, professional. For most of its existence, German football was amateur. This really handcuffed the sport. Clubs from around the continent could take the best players from the German clubs with the offer of money. Kremer, in September of 1953, built the clubhouse that still stands today.

His creations didn’t stop there, in July of 1963 he was one of the founding members of the Bundesliga. It was scheduled to begin with the 1963/64 season, because of this he was given the nickname “Father of the Bundesliga”. Where he really hit his stride, though, was in charge of Koln. While he wasn’t the trainer, he had the final say. After all, he formed the club and negotiated all the contracts. Most of the reason was to keep the contract details from becoming public knowledge.  

All this hard work resulted in a German championship in 1962, and the first Championship in Bundesliga history in 1964. The success should have kept going on much longer, but Kremer died from complications with his heart in November of 1967. This was shocking, to say the least. The club’s members, just some twenty-two days before, had voted him president of the club for another two years. Franz had been listening to his team play against Eintracht Frankfurt. Sadly, after the match, the team was informed by the club’s press officer that he had passed away.

For a while, the club did maintain the good times. In the early 70s, Koln made it to three DFB Pokal finals in four years, losing to Kickers Offenbach, Bayern Munich, and Monchengladbach. They ran to a second place in the league in 1973 and won the DFB Pokal over Hertha that year. In 1977-78 they had their most impressive year, winning the league and cup double, alongside becoming one of only four clubs to win the double in Bundesliga history. 

Posted by Stephen Brandt

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