Clubs of all three national leagues in Germany received a short statement that was due to be addressed to supporters before last weekend’s games. Controversial thing about it is putting pyrotechnics alongside racism, discrimination and violence. Still, only one club didn’t apply to the instruction.
Cutting long story short isn’t always possible as this one starts a year back. When last year’s summer holidays were ending, supporters in Germany were still ongoing with their nationwide campaign to legalise pyrotechnics inside stadiums. Neighbours from Austria paved the way as their initiative with the same objective had succeeded.
Legalise it? Not really...
But in Germany talks, ongoing for months, were suddenly terminated by authorities, causing initiators to suggest they’ve been misled and disrespected by governing bodies. As a response flares, still illegal, started being used inside grounds on a scale larger than before. And this according to some commentators was the direct reason for ministry of interior and major football bodies meeting to discuss safety issues.
On July 17 representatives of German FA (DFB), German league (DFL) and associated clubs met in Berlin with minister of interior and chairman of land (state) ministers. The outcome, as expected by many, was call for stricter penalising many offences. With stadium bans as an example – now lasting for up to 5 or 10 years in extreme cases, opposed to previous duration of 3 years.
This isn’t fanculture
To show supporters that authorities still care about the culture of their fanbases, several steps were made. All participants agreed that standing terraces are to be retained along with chants and flags. Even more, clubs agreed to increase their spending on fanprojects (public organizations supporting positive fanculture) by 50%. This doesn’t mean higher budgets, but is hoped to relieve municipal and state budgets, from where more financing was coming.
These means are to ensure supporters that bodies governing German football care about the unique balance Germany has created with rather liberal regulations and affordable tickets.
To give a clear message it was decided that before every game played last weekend, captains of the home side will read a short appeal to their fans, asking for responsible behavior inside the stadium and marking clear line between what’s good and bad.
The standardised message said: “Passion, emotions and standing are part of stadium atmosphere, but racism, discrimination and violence are not – just like firecrackers, smoke bombs and flares”. These words were spread through loudspeaker systems inside all 27 home venues, with all 54 clubs of top three tiers present. But despite the possibility to modify the appeal by each club, 26 of the football sides presented it as written above.
Time will show whether this form of persuasion is effective. But in one stadium’s case we already know it won’t be. Ironically it was in Berlin, where the July meeting had been held. Ahead of 2nd league derby between Union and Hertha home team’s captain Torsten Matuschka read the suggested sentence, ending with violence and skipping the part about pyrotechnics. Union is the only one among 54 top clubs in Germany to oppose putting pyrotechnics in line with extreme ideologies or behaviour.
StadiumDB.com comment: It’s always amusing to see how authorities think they can decide what is and isn’t fanculture without actually listening to what fans have to say about their own... culture, actually (dear DFB, a hint for you: there's a reason why it's not called DFBculture). End the fact that 53 clubs followed a message against at least portions of their own fanbases makes us respect Union Berlin even more. Last year many thousands were explicitly stating “Pyrotechnik legalisieren, emotionen respektieren” (Legalise pyrotechnics, respect emotions) and this year football authorities think they can impose a completely opposite idea on people with a short pre-match statement. Right, good luck!