Weekly football conversation since 2009, with Graham Sibley, Jan Bilton and Terry Duffelen. Listen on Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or your podcatcher of choice.

German football fan group protests set to continue

Since the start of the season fan groups of football clubs across Germany have participated in fan protests against the German FA. Report and reaction from Terry Duffelen and Nik Wildhagen.

Fan groups are angry with Football governing body and have taken coordinated action against the DFB to raise awareness to the broader football watching public and to demonstrate their solidarity and determination. These protests mostly came in the form of banner and tifos during the games. They became prominent this weekend due the the start of the 1. Bundesliga but have been taking place for some weeks from Dresden to Nuremberg, Munich to Mönchengladbach and Chemnitz to Münster.

Probably the most eye catching slogan used during these protests is “FICK DICH DFB”. You need only type the first two words into Google Translate to understand the meaning and the sentiment behind this statement.

Fan groups are angry and frustrated with what they consider to be unfair and unjust treatment from the DFB and the security services in the stadium. They object to, heavy-handed security methods and arrests plus other punitive powers that are exerted by the authorities which, they argue, go beyond that which is permissible in German law, such as imposing stadium bans on people without proof of wrongdoing. They are also opposed to the closing entire stands as collective action against fans as punishment for the wrongdoings by a small section of fans, such as the closure of the Südtribune following attacks on travelling Leipzig fans in Dortmund last season.

They also object strongly to the excessive commercialisation of the game which has led to actions such as rescheduling matches for the benefit of television audiences and to the detriment of match-going supporters. Fans also object to the inclusion of the China U20 squad in the German fourth tier, the relaxation of the 50+1 ownership rule which, allows RB Leipzig to exist and prosper. Fan groups also accuse the DFB of lack of transparency with respect to the awarding of the 2006 World Cup finals. Moreover, fans are unhappy that the DFB use fan culture to market the league while at the same time attacking them.

In an attempt to address the situation DFB president Reinhard Grindel offered to end collective punishment and offered to open a dialogue with some fan groups. However, this apparent olive branch has been met with scepticism. In an open reply to Mr Grindel the Hertha BSC Ultragruppen state:
“There were plenty of opportunities for this. All dialogues between fan-representatives and associations went nowhere… Therefore, we do not trust the DFB and as long as this is the case, we will carry our protest to the stadiums!”

The protests are set to continue with Ultras Dynamo (Dresden) saying:
"It is obvious that the DFB and the DFL market us. In return, they harassed us stadium-goers in a way that is no longer acceptable… We are now more than happy to show our teeth. We have come too far to give up.”

Where are the solutions? Schalke's ultras take another route

However, there was one group of fans not participating in the protests. Surprisingly enough it were Schalke's Ultras who decided to abstain from banners and tifos criticizing the DFB. In a flyer passed around before the match the group state that the protests planned in many other German stadiums weren't helpful:
"We have to try to show that there are solutions instead of using blunt catch phrases like 'Scheiß DFB'. We regard the course taken by many fan scenes as blindly going forward offering no solutions, including a lack of reflection from within those groups."

While Schalke fans don't necessarily agree with the colourful language that has been thrown the DFB's and DFL's way, they also state clearly that they do think that the time for change has come:
"From our point of view we unequivocally want to state that several developments and mechanisms in and around the DFB and DFL have crossed a line and that we no longer can keep silent about them. Those topics don't extend to the fan scene only, but also concern the broad base of football fans in the stadium."

The Gelsenkirchen Ultras would consider joining other fans if the protests include possible solutions and offer a basis on which the fans and the DFB and DFL can negotiate on:
"There has to be a concept from A to Z that can include everybody within the stadium, which in turn could change the points we are criticising with a broad base behind us."

The DFL and the DFB need to re-think their stances

It is clear that the protests are here to stay. The officials at the DFB and DFL clearly need to re-think their stances if they want the fans to get behind them. Past failures to meet promises and to find solutions to problems that have concerned the fan scene have most of the time been a failure on the part of the officials, not the fans. Clearly, the fan scenes all around Germany have misstepped at times, but that can also be put down to the fact that the DFB and DFL have given them a lot of things to be frustrated about.

The Schalke fans have, however, a strong case in their dissent. First of all, it is rather doubtful that officials who have been told to bugger off in rather strong terms are willing to come to the negotiating table to find solutions that both parties can be happy about. It is understandable that fans are tired of being jerked around, whilst being used as advertising tools. Having said that, they should also be aware of the fact that every little or big failure on their part can be used as fodder for the DFB and DFL when they try to explain the public why they aren't willing to meet any demands whatsoever.

Furthermore, the fans need to be active in pointing out solutions to the problems they are facing in addition to reminding the public of the failures of the past. If there is one thing the likes of the DFB and DFL respond to, it's public pressure when they seemingly look bad in the eyes of the public at large. As long as the fans manage to get a message across without antagonising the public at large with perceived missteps the DFB and DFL might very well be forced to come back to the table, offering the fans new solutions.

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