SpVgg Greuther Fürth (German pronunciation: [ˈɡʁɔʏ̯tɐ ˈfʏʁt]) is a German association football club based in Fürth, Bavaria. The club was formed when the senior football side of newcomer Turn- und Sportverein Vestenbergsgreuth joined traditional club Spielvereinigung Fürth on 1 July 1996. SpVgg is an abbreviation of the German term "Spielvereinigung", literally "playing association", a traditional term used for a team (German: Verein) or club engaged in sports other than gymnastics.
In the 2012–13 season, the club played in the Bundesliga for the first time, having won promotion from the 2. Bundesliga, but was uncompetitive at that level and was promptly relegated again.
The origins of SpVgg Fürth are in the establishment on 23 September 1903 of a football department within the gymnastics club Turnverein 1860 Fürth. The footballers went their own way as an independent club in November 1906. The team played in the Ostkreisliga and took divisional titles there in 1912, 1913 and 1914 before moving on to participate in the Süddeutsche (South German) regional playoffs for the national championship round. Right from the beginning there was a great rivalry between the SpVgg Fürth and the 1. FC Nürnberg, predicated on the historical rivalry between the two neighbouring cities. The club grew rapidly, and by 1914, it had 3000 members and was the largest sports club in Germany.
Fürth won their first national title in 1914 under English coach William Townley. They faced VfB Leipzig – the defending champions with three titles to their credit – in the final held on 31 May in Magdeburg. A 154-minute-long thriller, the longest game in German football history, ended with Fürth scoring a golden goal to secure the title. The team had a solid run of successes through the 1920s and into the early 1930s, beginning with an appearance in the national final in 1920 against Nuremberg, which was the dominant side of the decade. The rivalry between the two clubs was such that a star player with SpVgg was forced to leave after he married a Nuremberg girl. In 1924, for the first and only time, the German national side was made up exclusively of players from just two sides – Fürth and Nuremberg – and players of the two teams slept in separate rail coaches.
SpVgg showed regularly on the national stage, advancing to the semi-finals in 1923 and 1931. They claimed two more championships – in 1926 and 1929 – with both of those victories coming at the expense of Hertha BSC. Through this period, the club played five finals in the Süddeutscher Pokal (en:South German Cup), coming away as cup winners on four occasions. On 27 August 1929, the association was joined by FC Schneidig Fürth.
German football was re-organized in 1933 under the Third Reich into sixteen top flight Gauligen. Fürth became part of the Gauliga Bayern, but their success over the next dozen seasons was limited to a division title there in 1935, alongside regular appearances in competition for the Tschammerpokal, predecessor to today's DFB-Pokal (German Cup).
After the war the team struggled through three seasons in the Oberliga Süd (I) before slipping to the Landesliga Bayern (II). SpVgg quickly recovered itself and returned to Oberliga play the next season. They won the title there in 1950 and went on to the national playoffs, advancing as far as the semifinals before being eliminated 1–4 by VfB Stuttgart. In 1954, two players from the SpVgg, Karl Mai and Herbert Erhardt, were members of the "Miracle of Bern" team that won Germany's first World Cup.
Fürth remained a first division side until the formation of the Bundesliga in 1963. The club did not qualify as one of the sixteen teams that made up the new unified national first division and they found themselves playing second division football in the Regionalliga Süd, where they were generally a mid-table side whose best finish was third place result in 1967. The club played in the 2. Bundesliga from its inception in 1974 until 1983 with their best performance a fourth place result in 1978–79. They slipped to playing in the tier III Bayernliga, with a short three-year spell in the fourth division Landesliga Bayern-Mitte in the late 1980s. In 1990, Fürth celebrated a 3–1 victory in the opening round of the DFB-Pokal play over first division sideBorussia Dortmund before going out 0–1 to 1. FC Saarbrücken in the second round. They returned to the Bayernliga (III) in 1991 and the Regionalliga Süd (III) in 1994.
Historical logos of SpVgg Fürth and TSV Vestenbergsgreuth
Meanwhile, the small village team of TSV Vestenbergsgreuth was established 1 February 1974 and debuted as a fourth division side. They advanced into the Amateur Oberliga Bayern (III) in 1987, just as SpVgg Fürth was descending to play in the division the more junior club had just escaped. TSV took part in the national amateur playoff round in 1988 and 1995. Their best performance came in the 1995 DFB-Pokal when they upset Bayern Munich 1–0, and then beat FC 08 Homburg 5–1, before being eliminated in the third round of the competition by VfL Wolfsburg on penalty kicks.
At the time of their merger in 1996, in which TSV's football players came over to 'Fürth, both clubs were playing at about the same level in Regionalliga Süd (III). The new club was runner-up behind long term rival 1. FC Nürnberg in the division the next year, and so earned promotion to the 2. Bundesliga, where they have consistently finished in the top half of the eighteen team table. Fürth has come close to renewing its ancient rivalry with Nuremberg at the Bundesliga level, narrowly missing promotion in each of the last two seasons. On 23 April 2012, Fürth finally gained promotion to the Bundesliga in the 2011–12 season, furthermore, they eventually went on to win the 2nd division.
However, Fürth had a difficult first season in the Bundesliga as the club amassed only four victories in the 34-game campaign. The club also set an unwanted record by becoming the first club in Bundesliga history to not win a single home game during the regular season. The club finished last in the league and was relegated back to the 2. Bundesliga.
The following season, despite not aiming for promotion, the club was a strong contender for a direct return to the Bundesliga. A third place in the final standings qualified the team for the promotion play offs where it faced Hamburger SV. After a nill-all draw in Hamburg the club missed out on promotion on the away goal rule when the return leg ended 1–1.
Fürth also fields a strong reserve side which has played in the Oberliga Bayern (IV) since the 2001–02 season and finished second there in 2006–07. A second place in 2007–08 meant the team was qualified to play in the Regionalliga Süd in 2008–09.
With the introduction of the Bezirksoberligas in 1988 as the new fifth tier, below the Landesligas, all leagues below dropped one tier. With the introduction of the Regionalligas in 1994 and the 3. Liga in 2008 as the new third tier, below the 2. Bundesliga, all leagues below dropped one tier.
In September 2012, U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, whose family fled Nazi Germany in 1938, attended a match against Schalke 04. He had promised to attend a game at the Ronhof stadium if the team were promoted to the German Bundesliga. As a child, Kissinger had tried to watch games there, even though it was against his parents' wishes. Kissinger is an honorary member of SpVgg. For decades he kept himself informed about match results and held contact to the club. During his time at the White House in the 70s, he reportedly asked his staff to have the team's weekend result ready for him on Monday mornings. He visited his hometown and the club several times and attended a Bundesliga match in 2012 during the team's first season in the German Bundesliga.