Yesterday 36 top clubs voted on proposed safety regulation changes with vast majority in favour. Many fans see this as clamp-down on fan culture, but others are encouraged by events of past few weeks. What's changing inside German stadia?
Weeks before the vote saw the subject of stadiums more vibrant in the media and less so... at the stadiums. Dozens of games were held in complete silence for 12 minutes and 12 seconds from first whistle to remind club officials they should vote correctly on December 12. Correctly means aginst the “Sicheres Stadionerlebnis” (Safe Stadium Experience) document.
What's the problem?
This set of guidelines hoped to improve safety at football games was created after July safety meeting. The meeting itself had been prompted by incidents from play-off game between Fortuna and Hertha when pitch invasion and pyrotechnics were broadcast nationwide, resulting in almost hysteric reaction from some media outlets. According to police statistics Germany is nowhere near a renaissance of football hooliganism, but the outcry caused intense pressure on politicians and football governing bodies to do something.
Direct result of the July meeting was a brochure published in September, named “Sicheres Stadionerlebnis”, but it's not the same one that was voted on yesterday. That is because not only fans, but also clubs and some media criticised it and forced DFB (German FA) and DFL (German Premier League) to go back to the drawing board on a safety improvement document.
In November a new project under the same name was published, this time with less controversial content. As an example, proposition to increase penalties (stadium bans for up to 10 years) was revoked. This set of 16 points is believed to provide safer stadium experience, but fans remained sceptical, especially after seeing the initial project. We wrote about their campaigns recently so let's just say they received quite some attention from the media, not only in Germany.
Recent weeks have been quite promising for supporters as they got their side of the story across with some media. But this didn't change the outcome at all. Just as expected, yesterday's vote ended with vast majority of 36 Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga clubs in support of the new project.
Only a few clubs attempted to stop the progress as FC Sankt Pauli filed a notion to postpone the vote until proper consultations with fans are done. A total of 5 sides shared that view, but as majority wanted to get it over with, plans weren't changed.
Some points still see fans outraged, like Article 8 suggesting improved safety checks upon entry to the stadium. Though described generally, this proposal caused suspicion that detailed personal checks are to be carried out regularly, as they were tested before one game of the Bundesliga. Another problematic point gives host clubs possibility to reduce away allocation from 10% to 5% if a game is seen as high-risk fixture.
But not only the set of rules is an issue here. It's also about how it's being introduced. Despite some parts of Sicheres Stadionerlebnis promising dialogue with fans, those very same fans witnessed close to none of that dialogue as the rules were created. This is what the silent 12:12 protest was about.
A lot will depend on how the guidelines will be executed in reality, especially that alterations were done even yesterday ahead of the vote. What seems clear is that police may expect their work to become easier as CCTV and stricter controls will allow more efficient fight with those not abiding the rules. Those working with supporters, like fanproject workers or supporter liaison officers may see their work harder as they will now share some of the responsibility for safety. In the same way match organizers will no be subject to stricter treatment as means to ensure they will do exactly as they should to ensure safety.
Fans lost, fans won?
On one hand it's a sad moment for supporters across Germany as their massive campaigns that involved tens if not hundreds of thousands weren't enough to make the difference as the safety project was pushed through. It's 1:0 for DFB, one might say.
But on the other hand, some German journalists and columnists today write that supporters were the ones who showed real class with their creative and peaceful initiatives. Coverage of the protests differs from the summer hysteric one, it's more balanced and fans from numerous other countries might envy those from Germany what they've managed to achieve by hosting possibly the largest initiative of its kind in years, proving they can work together despite all differences.