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Sports

German football fans halt silent protests

A German soccer fans' union has called a halt to a curious form of protest. Crowds will no longer watch on in silence during the start of Bundesliga matches - protesting safety rules they say ruin the atmosphere.

The "12:12" protest movement issued a statement on Wednesday telling fans that they could sing and cheer again during the start of football matches in Germany.

Supporters had stayed silent for 12 minutes and 12 seconds at the start of games for weeks in protest of new stadium security measures. Those measures were adopted at a December 12 German Football League (DFL) meeting, with the period of protest referring to the 12/12/12 date.

"After the winter break there is no further call from us for an atmospheric boycott," the group said in a statement detailing the results of a weekend conference. "However, all fan representatives agreed that the solidarity experienced by fans across the country should be maintained and strengthened."

The group said that the campaign had been "one of the most successful of all time," although the new security concept was introduced as planned on December 12.

"If one compares the submitted rules with the first draft, it's easy to see that the protest helped contribute towards preventing many further, disproportionate measures," the 12:12 statement said.

The 16 points passed on December 12 largely reinforced existing regulations, like a ban on pyrotechnics in the stands and the possibility of stadium bans for unruly supporters.

Provisions allowing random full-body searches and raising the possibility of limiting traveling fan ticket allocations for games considered high risk were labeled unnecessary by many fans. Supporters were most upset, however, by being left out of the process and were lobbying mainly for some input alongside police, politicians and the governing bodies.

Suggestions still sought

The paper encouraged all fans to help contribute to its counterproposal, referred to as a "fan-friendly stadium experience," a play on words of the title of the official December 12 bill: "a secure stadium experience." The legislation applies to the top two divisions in Germany, administered by the DFL.

DFL Vice President Heribert Bruchhagen welcomed the news.

"These conflict situations were never in football's best interest," Bruchhagen told German sports news agency SID, "I would be very happy if they were now dissolved piece by piece."

The protests, under a motto that loosely translates as "without a voice, there's no atmosphere," were billed as an attempt to show the positive role fans play in football.

The 12:12 organizers did warn, however, that they would re-start protests if aspects of the new rules they oppose - like restricting the size of traveling fan contingents or implementing full-body searches - are actually put into practice. 

The new safety measures were devised under media and political pressure alike, after a particularly raucous end to the previous season in Germany, with tensions boiling over at a string of clubs in league and other fixtures.

msh/tm (dpa, SID)