Offenbacher Kickers, also known as Kickers Offenbach, is a German association football club in Offenbach am Main, Hesse. The club was founded on 27 May 1901 in the Rheinischer Hof restaurant by footballers who had left established local clubs including Melitia, Teutonia, Viktoria, Germania and Neptun. From 1921 to 1925 they were united with VfB 1900 Offenbach as VfR Kickers Offenbach until resuming their status as a separate side, Offenbacher FC Kickers. Since 2012, Kickers Offenbach's stadium has been the Sparda Bank Hessen Stadium.
The club became one of the founding members of the Nordkreis-Liga in 1909, where it played until the outbreak of the war. In post-First World War Germany, Kickers played in the Kreisliga Südmain (I), winning this league in 1920, 1922 and 1923.
The club played as a mid-table side in the Bezirksliga Main-Hessen through the late 1920s and early 1930s. German football was re-organized in 1933 under the Third Reich into sixteen first division Gauligen. Kickers joined the Gauliga Südwest, where the team immediately captured the title and entered the national playoffs for the first time. They fared poorly there, but did manage to raise their overall level of play in the following seasons, going on to win five consecutive divisional championships from 1940 to 1944.
In the early 1940s the Gauliga Südwest had been split into the Gauliga Westmark and the Gauliga Hessen-Nassau, where Kickers played. Their best post-season result came in 1942 when the team was able to advance as far as the semi-finals in the national championship rounds before they were decisively put out 0:6 by Schalke 04, who were on their way to their sixth championship as the era's most dominant side. By 1944, Allied armies were rolling through Germany and the Gauliga Hessen-Nassau did not play the 1944–45 season.
The club found itself in the new Regionalliga Süd (II) and play in the Bundesliga would have to wait until 1968. The team was immediately relegated, but returned to the upper league for play in 1970–71. In addition to their return to the Bundesliga, the club would win its one of its few honours in 1970 with a 2:1 German Cup victory over 1. FC Köln.
However, the end of the 1971 season would find Kickers Offenbach at the centre of the Bundesliga scandal. The club president, Horst Canellas, went to the German Football Association (Deutsche Fussball Bund or German Football Association) after being approached by a player from another team looking for a cash bonus for that club's effort in beating one of Offenbach's rivals in the fight against relegation. Receiving no help from league officials, Canellas began gathering evidence of how widespread the payoffs were. In the end more than fifty players from seven clubs, two coaches, and six game officials were found guilty of trying to influence the outcome of games through bribes, but Canellas was unable to save his club from relegation. The club central to the scandal – Arminia Bielefeld – would not be punished until the following season, too late to save Offenbach.
The scandal had a strongly negative effect on the young league and contributed to plummeting attendance figures. One outcome of the whole affair was the further evolution of German football; salary restrictions were removed and the 2. Bundesliga also became a professional league. For the players it meant that having one's club sent down no longer also meant losing one's status as a paid professional. Kickers immediately returned to top level. The best finish was 7th in 1972-73 season. They were leaders for 5 rounds and beat Bayern Munich 6-0 in 1974-75 season. They relegated to second level in 1975-76 season.
Kickers would spend the next seven years in the second division before making a return to the Bundesliga for just a single season in 1983–84. In 1985, financial problems led to the club being penalized points and driven into the third division Amateur Oberliga Hessen. They recovered themselves only to be denied a license in 1989 and be sent back down again. By the mid-1990s they slipped as far as Oberliga Hessen (IV), but remained competitive. They appeared in the final of the national amateur championship in 1994 where they lost 0:1 to Preußen Münster. After a failed attempt to advance in 1998, Offenbach returned to play in the 2. Bundesliga in 1999 and were immediately sent down after a 17th-place result there. In each of these seasons the team took part in the nation amateur championship winning the title in 1999.
The club next appeared in second division play in 2005. After two lower table finishes, Kickers were relegated to 3. Liga on the final day of the 2007–08 season following a 0:3 defeat to fellow strugglers VfL Osnabrück. Despite their mixed fortunes the team remain a fan favorite and are well supported.
On 18 July 2012, the club's new ground, the Sparda Bank Hessen Stadium, was opened with a pre-season friendly between Kickers and Bayer 04 Leverkusen. The club was refused a 3. Liga licence at the end of the 2012–13 season and relegated to the Regionalliga with SV Darmstadt 98 taking its place. The club, €9 million in debt, could potentially have faced insolvency and a restart at the lowest level of the German football league system.
The club won the Regionalliga Südwest in 2014–15 and thereby earned the right to take part in the promotion round to the 3. Liga, where it missed out on promotion to 1. FC Magdeburg. The loss was overshadowed by approximately 40 Offenbach supporters storming the field in the 84th minute and forcing a twenty-minute interruption to the return leg.
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. Also in 2008, the majority of football leagues in Hesse were renamed, with the Oberliga Hessen becoming the Hessenliga, the Landesliga becoming the Verbandsliga, the Bezirksoberliga becoming the Gruppenliga and the Bezirksliga becoming the Kreisoberliga.
Kickers second team played in the Amateurliga Hessen (III) from 1971–74 until being disbanded after the 1973–74 season. The reconstituted side reappeared in the Amateuroberliga Hessen (III) in 1984, but were sent down after the relegation of the senior side from the 2. Bundesliga. The amateur's next appearance of note was in the Oberliga Hessen (IV) in 1999 in a campaign that ended in relegation after a 15th-place finish. In 2008–09, it returned to the Hessenliga and finished in fourth place. After six seasons in the league the team finished 18th in the Hessenliga in 2014 and was relegated to the Verbandsliga.