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Bundesliga: Despite promotion, all is not well between Hannover 96 and some fans

Hannover may not be well-known internationally, but abandonment of a friendly in England has put the club in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. Tensions between the club and some fans has dampened the joy of promotion.

If fans outside of Germany hadn't known who Hannover 96 were, they must have found out this past Saturday, when a small group of the club's supporters tried to attack home fans during a friendly away to Premier League side Burnley. As a result, the match was abandoned at halftime on the advice of the local police - and Hannover 96 were in the headlines of the international media. 

The fact that Hannover aren't all that well-known abroad likely has to do with the fact that they have never made much of an impact in European competition. A quarterfinal appearance in the Europa League in 2011-2012 was their deepest foray into international football so far.

Return from the third tier

However, since 2002, when Ralf Rangnick led the club into the Bundesliga for the first time since German reunification in 1990, the club has for the most part been a fixture in the top flight and this is largely thanks to another man, who now has some Hannover fans up in arms against him - club President Martin Kind.

When he first took the post, in September, 1997, Hannover were languishing in the then-third tier Regionalliga, but Kind, a successful businessman, began to invest heavily in the club, helping it win promotion to the second division and later to the Bundesliga. He stepped down as president before the 2005-06 season, saying he had charted a course for the club to be successful in the long term. However, partly due to popular demand from Hannover fans, he was back in as president less than a year later.

From hero to heel

These days, though, Kind who continued to invest heavily in the club even when he wasn't president is drawing the wrath of some supporters over his plan to take control of the voting rights at the club.

Deutschland | Hannover 96 | Protest gegen Präsident Martin Kind | 50+1 bleibt (picture alliance/dpa/P. Steffen)

Many fans at Hannover 96 and other Bundesliga clubs strongly support Germany's 50+1 rule

Kind, now 73, has long been a vocal critic of German football's 50 + 1 rule, which is designed to keep at least a thin majority of the voting rights in a club's membership preventing a single individual or entity from assuming complete control.  However, this can be circumvented if an individual or entity invests heavily in a club over a period of two decades. Kind has done this at Hannover 96 and last week, the club's supervisory board voted to allow him to acquire 51 percent of the voting rights. Martin Kind has said he now intends to make the necessary application  to the DFL, which operates to Bundesliga.

Injunction filed

The supervisory board's vote was met with fan protests outside of the meeting and one fan group, Pro Verein 1896 has filed for a court injunction to prevent Kind from acquiring the voting majority.

During the violence perpetrated by that small group of Hannover fans in Burnley on Saturday, much of their verbal wrath appeared to be directed at Martin Kind. The club president, though, was not in Burnley for the match.

Suspended 'sentence'

Both the club and Pro Verein 1896 have strongly condemned the violence, but there are fears there could be more trouble as Hannover embark on their first season back in the Bundesliga. The club is already on probation after the German football association (DFB) ordered that Hannover close off a couple of sections of its stadium for one home match, following incidents that occurred in second division games towards the end of last season. The "sentence," handed down by the DFB last month, was suspended, but in its ruling, the DFB reserved the right to implement it any time - until it expires on May 31, 2018.

In Sunday's statement in which the club condemned the actions of a small group of ultras in Burnley, Hannover 96 called on all fans to support the team in a non-violent manner.

"Everyone at Hannover 96 is looking forward to the new Bundesliga season and asks (fans to create) an atmosphere that supports our players on the pitch - without violence and in compliance with stadium rules… Our wonderful team needs this support in the stadium."

The first test of how widely persuasive that appeal has been will come next Sunday when Hannover travel to western Germany to face fourth-tier Bonner SC in the first round of the German Cup. 

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