German fans rally to protect fan culture

Thousands of German football fans came together on Saturday in a mass demonstration to make clear their opposition to rising ticket prices and the commercialisation of the game. The peaceful protest, titled Zum Erhalt der Fankultur (For the Protection of Fan Culture), was attended by fans of approximately 50 different clubs and an estimated 6,000 attendance was claimed by organisers.

The event was supported by Football Supporters Europe of which the FSF is an affiliated member.

Clubs from the first, second and third divisions of Germany’s Bundesliga were represented as supporters congregated on Berlin’s City Hall. Complaints weren’t just restricted to financial issues such as ticket pricing though. Unfair kick-off times, police brutality, stadium bans, and the authorities’ overreaction to fan behaviour all got a mention too.

Speakers criticised the commercial policies of both the German Football Federation (DFB) and the German league (DFL) in an effort to keep Bundesliga prices at affordable levels. The Bundesliga remains the cheapest major league in Europe with an average price of around €21.

It’s not the first time in recent weeks German fans have let their feelings known – last month around 1,500 Borussia Dortmund fans boycotted their club’s derby with Schalke in protest at their local rivals almost doubling prices.

While creeping prices are of obvious concern for German fans the introduction of a Saturday evening kick-off has also received a less than rapturous reception. Matches traditionally kick-off at 3.30pm on a Saturday in Germany.

“The situation is really bad,” said Alliance of Active Football Fans (BAFF) spokesman Wilko Zicht. “We have been defending our fan culture for years and the people in power must realise that if ticket prices frighten off fans, it will kill off the atmosphere in the stadiums. We want to show people how good the fan culture in Germany is and that it is a pity that it is she is currently under threat.”

Three years ago the DFB and DFL set up the Fan Dialogue initiative which was meant to give football fans in Germany a say in how their game was run. However, many fans felt the forum was little more than an appeasement and argued only action would work. BAFF spokesman Zicht described it as “nothing more than a good chat over coffee and cake”.

The protest has been very positively received by the media in Germany due to its peaceful nature and the exemplary behaviour of the fans involved. No trouble occurred at all and the fans in attendance, to their credit, called for all supporters to take responsibility in self-regulating good behaviour too.