Temperature around German football safety has been growing for months and is almost as hot as the flares set off by fans inside stadiums. Flares much hated by football governing bodies who suggested a new safety system, claiming people don’t feel safe at football games. They only forgot to ask the people, whether this is the case…
This case’s background is a very complex one with months of deteriorating relations between supporters and football governing bodies preceding recent events. In recent months fans were furious for the way DFB and DFL (general and league bodies) broke off talks about legalizing pyrotechnics inside stadiums.
So they started to light even more ‘bangalos’ (as they’re called in Germany) illegally, protesting the way they’ve been treated. This obviously made DFB and DFL displeased and resulted in a campaign on season opening. Captains of all clubs in top leagues were asked to read a statement that put pyrotechnics in the same group of offenses as violence and discrimination. Needless to say, this time fans were displeased even more.
Then come the regular tensions between commercializing football and incidents of hooliganism around football games. Though Germany may seem a great model of balance between business and passion, it’s been far from balanced recently.
In October DFL, after consultations with DFB and Ministry of Interior, proposed a new model of safety at football matches. Brochure titled ‘Sicheres Stadionerlebnis’ (Safe Stadium Experience) is based on the assumption that safety level at football games is challenged and needs to be improved.
Among suggested means is, among others, searching each person entering ‘ultras sections’ for any forbidden items. What’s more, there’s even a distant and indirect threat that existence of standing areas is questionable.
The 33-page pamphlet was sent out to all of the country’s top clubs, but their reaction probably wasn’t what DFB were hoping for. 1. FC Koeln, FC Augsburg, Union Berlin, Hertha Berlin, VfB Stuttgart, Fortuna Dusseldorf, VfL Wolfsburg and Sankt Pauli – these sides either rejected the document or questioned its content significantly.
Several others noted that releasing such documents without even consulting those who will be most affected, isn’t the right way. With such response the fact that Bayern and Borussia Dortmund accepted the proposed regulations earned them quite some criticism.
Not only some of the biggest clubs, but also part of the media noticed that DFL rules will mostly affect the fan culture, not safety level inside the grounds. And then there’s the fans, who – as expected – aren’t going to stand by and watch. Statements from fan groups and their partners have been expressing concern over the proposed solutions.
Because you cannot call football games unsafe if there are no safer mass events, can you? This question is being asked by “Ich fühl‘ mich sicher!” (I feel safe!) campaigners who present police statistics and stress that safety level is indeed increasing, not going down.
Over the last two years (2010-2011) 846 people have been hurt inside German stadiums. Though it sounds like a lot, this number isn’t a list of hooligan victims, but all injuries happening during and around games. And since German stadia are the world’s most attended, that number means that only one person out of 20,800 suffers from any kind of injury.
As part of the campaign organizers ask for support all the people who are attending German stadia and don’t need safety to increase. After just over a week of campaigning they’ve collected nearly 40,000 signatures [at the moment of writing, updated number seen on banner above] from all across the country.