Thanks to backing by Audi, FC Ingolstadt 04 are not everyone’s favourite team in the Bundesliga. Able to stay up in their debut top-flight season of 2015-16, Die Schanzer now battle to repeat the feat in 2016-17.
Associated with impossibly unfashionable local rock band Bonfire, responsible for club song ‘Schanzer Herz’, Ingolstadt represent an affluent Bavarian town whose main sporting focus was ice hockey until relatively recently.
Football was a lower-league affair, the two main clubs of ESV and MTV playing two seasons each in the Zweite Bundesliga in the late 1970s. When ESV were going to the wall, MTV stepped in and FC Ingolstadt 04 were formed – in 2004.
Though between fierce rivals, the merger, prompted by Peter Jackwerth, whose temporary work agency were the shirt sponsors of ESV, was the obvious solution. Jackwerth has been chairman of Ingolstadt every since, raising the funds to build a new stadium and bringing Audi into the game.
His newly combined club showed ambition from the off, narrowly missing promotion from the fourth-tier Bayernliga in its debut campaign, gaining it a year later and taking only two seasons to leap from Regionalliga Süd to Zweite Bundesliga.
So far, so good.
Then Die Schanzer slipped back down to the 3.Liga and it needed a play-off with Hansa Rostock in 2010 to climb back up. The timing was perfect, as that summer Jackwerth was moving the club from the old ESV-Stadion to the new-build Audi Sportpark.
Mired in mid-table in the Zweite, Ingolstadt showed promise but not results, until the arrival of Ralph Hasenhüttl in 2013. After working near miracles at Aalen, the much-travelled former Austrian international got to work at Ingolstadt.
Taking the club from bottom to tenth in 2013-14, he kept momentum going into 2014-15, his side always difficult to beat, home or especially away. With few stars but hard-workers – midfielder Pascal Groß, Australian international striker Mathew Leckie – Hasenhüttl’s Ingolstadt won the Zweite by five clear points in 2015.
And, keeping faith with the core of players, bringing in Paraguayan international Dario Lezcano during the winter break, Hasenhüttl kept Die Schanzer mid-table for their entire debut campaign with the elite.
With Hasenhüttl declining to sign a new contract, 2016-17 was always going to be tricky. As the Austrian was leading his new charges, RB Leipzig, to the top of the Bundesliga, Ingolstadt remained rooted to the relegation zone.
With no previous Bundesliga experience, Maik Walpurgis now has some very large shoes to fill in the club’s managerial seat.
Opened in 2010, the Audi Sportpark is purpose-built for a club of Ingolstadt’s size – though the driving force behind it, chairman Peter Jackwerth, might not have counted on his club’s current run in the Bundesliga.
Set on the former site of the former Bavarian Oil refinery on other side of the Danube south-east of town, this 15,800-capacity stadium comprises 9,800 seats and the rest standing places at each end.
It was Jackwerth himself who raised the €20 million it took to build it, not Audi as might commonly be thought – and back in the days when Ingolstadt were still in the lower leagues. Audi then bought out Jackwerth in 2013.
Within a few weeks of its unveiling, the Sportpark was hosting its first international, Germany U-21’s 3-0 win over Northern Ireland, later World Cup final scorer Mario Götze in the line-up.
As a football ground, it’s functional but relatively intimate, obviously a prerequisite given to Dortmund architects the assmann Group being the need to have each of the four same-sized stands up close to the pitch.
The home end, Südtribüne, has standing places in sectors U and V. The Nordtribüne allocates away fans sectors H (standing) and I (sitting) in the Gästebereich.
The stadium is way south-east of town and too far to walk. On match days, you have two options and both are free if you’re a ticketholder. First, shuttle buses leave every 10min from the Central Bus Station (ZOB) on Esplanade, just north of the city centre, for the stadium, and head back until 2hrs after the final whistle.
Alternatively, still free to ticketholders for 4hrs before and after the match, regular city bus Nos.21 and 51 leave from central Rathausplatz (stop 3) and ZOB bus station (stop 2) respectively to the Audi Sportpark stop, every 30min until around 8pm, every 2hrs Sun, journey time 15min.
From the train station, several buses run to both Rathausplatz and ZOB – as the crow flies, the stadium isn’t that far, just over 3km, but it would still be €15 in a taxi.
With a capacity of 15,800 and average gates of around 15,000, availability will obviously be an issue whenever the big names come to Ingolstadt. For home games, tickets are sold for one match at a time. Unless the opposition is Bayern or Dortmund, you should be able to purchase up to a couple of days before the game, even on the day itself.
Providing there are tickets available, there are several outlets around town so that you don’t have to go all the way to the stadium for advance sales.
The main one is the Fan- und Ticketshop (Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, Sat 9am-2.30pm) at Moritzstraße 13, opposite Ingolstadt’s main church. Also convenient is the Tourist Information office (Mon-Fri 8.30am-6.30pm, Sat 9.30am-1pm) in the main building at the train station. The office for the Donaukurier newspaper at Mauthstraße 9, near the river, is another.
At the stadium, the Fan- und Ticketshop (Mon-Thur 10am-6pm, Fri 10am-3pm) is by the main office.
For online sales, tickets will only be posted out within Germany – or pick them up from the Hauptkasse from up to 2hrs before kick-off, with your ID.
For all enquiries, email email@example.com.
Match-day kiosks open 2hrs before kick-off, with windows behind the home and away ends, the Süd- and Nordtribune.
Prices have three categories according to how you buy: online always cheapest, then advance in person, then on the day, usually around €2-€3 dearer.
Standing (Stehplatz) tickets (for away fans, home ones sold for the season) are €14/€15.40/€16. A seat behind the goal (including for away fans) is €26/€28.60/€29 – there are also obstructed view places at €17/€18.70/€20.
The best seats are in the Haupttribüne and Gegengerade opposite, €35-€44/€38.50-€48.40/€39-€49.
Prices are reduced for 15-17s, pensioners and students by about €2-€5 and for children aged 7-14 by around 50%.
In the centre of town, the Fanshop (Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, Sat 9am-2.30pm) at Moritzstraße 13 has a wider selection of merchandise than the smaller outlet (Mon-Thur 10am-6pm, Fri 10am-3pm, match days) behind the main stand at the stadium.
On offer are flags, cushions, baseball caps and pennants, as well as a club history (‘Unser Weg’) and CDs of Bonfire’s ‘Schanzer Herz’ so you can rock out at home.
Stadium tours (€8) take place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (10am & 3pm) from the Fanshop, duration 1hr. Visitors take in the dressing rooms, business seats and mixed zone.
There are few options around the stadium, set out near a mass of bland retail outlets.
On the main road nearby, Manchinger Straße, there’s a handy Imbiss, the Schmankerl Eck, at No.125, providing grilled meats and beers.
Note that the nearest bar, again on the main road, Diva, is, in fact, a strip club.
At kiosks around the ground, there are only cash payments in the away end – everywhere else it’s by card.