Who Do You Support?

A Brief History of Bayer 04 Leverkusen
by Misha Teller

It all started with a letter to the board of directors of the Bayer Corporation. In February 1903 Wilhelm Hausschild sent a letter signed by 170 employees to the management of Bayer applying to set up a sports club.

On 1 July 1904 the sports club was established as: “Turn- und Spielverein der Farbenfabriken vorm. Friedr. Bayer & Co.” or “TuS 04” for short.

Several years later “Turn- und Spielverein der Farbenfabriken vorm. Friedr. Bayer & Co.” voted unanimously to set up a football squad and this was founded on 31 May 1907 at the Wiesdorfer Hof restaurant.

Their attachment to the Bayer Company saw them ask for permission to wear a Bayer logo on their kit, and on Christmas Day of 1907 the football squad wore a jersey with a coat of arms bearing the Bayer lion, a globe and Mercury’s staff. The first fixture was played in August 1907 against Manfort Ball Games Club. 

Four years after the club was founded the TuS 04 football team were promoted to the second Cologne district league. The football team were on the hunt to find a suitable ground. Unfortunately, the First World War intervened and put a stop to competitive games being played. 

After the war, the players found a home near the Dhünnaue meadows in Leverkusen-Wiesdorf. 

The football association along with other sports split from TuS 04 in 1923 and formed “Sportvereinigung Bayer 04 Leverkusen.” This united sports club included football, athletics, handball and boxing. The first 150 playing members of this group were all employed at the Bayer factory. 

1931 was a landmark year for football at Bayer 04. A 3-1 win against Langenfeld sealed the long-awaited promotion to the first Cologne district league. The club moved from the Dhünnaue to a new ground that was later renamed “Am Stadtpark.” 

In May 1936, the Bayer cross was worn on the club’s jersey for the first time. It replaced the lion as the club’s emblem. The Bayer team wore it during the promotion game against Solingen 95 as they reached the second highest level of German football.

 Ever bigger crowds came to watch the games and a stand was built at the sports ground at the city park in 1941, but league football had to be abandoned due to World War II. 

After the war, Bayer 04, as the club was now popularly called, started playing competitive fixtures again. The “black and reds” came to dominate the first Cologne district league even after the Central Rhine Football Association introduced a more competitive amateur league which was comprised of a state league divided into two sections.

In 1949 Leverkusen lost to 1 FC Köln in the play-off between the winners of the two state leagues. Bayer 04 lost 2-0 away in front of a crowd of 25,000 at the Cologne Velodrome. And they lost 3-1 in the return leg at home. Had they won they would have been promoted to the regional Oberliga West. This was the beginning of their rivalry with Cologne. 

Although the team had missed out on promotion to the German top flight, the club’s officials made a landmark decision to participate in the second division of the Oberliga West.

 In 1951 the football team was promoted to Germany football’s top division of the time, the Oberliga West first division.

During the next five years they stayed at the top of the Oberliga West but then fell short and were relegated back to the second division. Despite dropping down a division the club kept faith in future success on the pitch and started to build a new stadium and The Ulrich Haberland Stadium opened in 1958. 

Bayer spent most of the sixties in the second tier of German football. Promotion back to the Oberliga West in 1962 represented a brief return to the top flight.

In 1963 the Bundesliga was founded but Bayer 04 was unable to amass enough points to enter the competition. 

 In 1974 the team won the title but were not accepted into the new second division of the Bundesliga. It was only in the following year that Bayer were promoted to the Northern section of the second division which was, at that time, divided into two sections.

On the 12th of May 1979 all their previous efforts were rewarded as a 3-3 draw against FC Bayer 05 Uerdingen finally secured promotion for Bayer 04 Leverkusen into the Bundesliga.

Bayer 04’s first Bundesliga season was 1979/80. Leverkusen finished the season in twelfth spot.

Bayer finished a respectable seventh in the Bundesliga in 1984 but just missed out on qualifying for the UEFA Cup.

In 1986 Bayer 04 qualified for the UEFA Cup for the first time.

On 18 May 1988 Bayer 04 came back in the second leg of the UEFA Cup Final against Español to reverse the 3-0 score from the first game before going on to win the competition in penalties.   

On 12 June 1993 Bayer won the DFB Cup final game against Hertha Berlin at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin.

By 1997 a project, which started in 1986, was completed into making Ulrich Haberland Stadium an ultramodern all-seater stadium with a capacity of 22,500. The stadium was renamed BayArena in 1998.

In 2001/2002 Bayer 04 first made it to the Champions League final but suffered a 2-1 defeat against Real Madrid in a closely fought match at Hampden Park in Glasgow.

2003-2009 Bayer 04 had many ups and downs and became a formidable to team to be reckoned with in the Champions League, Europa League and Bundesliga. 

During the summer of 2008 the BayArena underwent further renovation which was completed in 2009 which increased the stadium to seat and additional 8,000 fans.  

Bayer Leverkusen have continuously been promoted to the UEFA Champions League since 2010/2011 season and usually finish the Bundesliga season in the top tier of that league. 

It seems that a lot of players get their start with this team and go on to become would champions like Arturo Vidal, Ulf Kirsten, Juan, Dimitar Berbatov, Ze Roberto to name a few.