Germany's top court has ruled that football clubs can take their own fans to court over serious misbehavior during matches. Bundesliga club Cologne are seeking damages from one of their supporters over a 2014 incident.
The ruling handed down by Germany's Federal Court of Justice (BGH) in Karlsruhe on Thursday determined that there is a link between individual fans violating stadium rules and fines handed to clubs for such violations by the German football association (DFB). This means that clubs are within their rights to seek damages from fans, when fines or other forms of punishment are imposed on them over such incidents by the DFB.
Specifically, the judges found that Bundesliga club Cologne could seek damages from a fan who, at a second division home game in February 2014, threw a firework that wound up injuring seven people.
FC Cologne is seeking 30,000 euros ($33,800) in damages from the fan after the DFB handed the club a fine of 50,000 euros and ordered them to invest a further 30,000 in measures aimed at preventing violence.
The case began with the supporter refusing to pay the 30,000 euros demanded by Cologne. The club then took its case to a local court in the western German city, which ordered that the fan pay up. However, the fan then took the case to the higher regional court, which ruled in favor of the fan, thus striking down the order to pay.
Thursday's BGH ruling means that the case now goes back to the upper regional court, which will have to decide whether the supporter will have to pay all or some of the damages sought by the club.
Cologne expressed satisfaction at the decision.
"The BGH ruling gives us as a club much needed legal certainty regarding the question as to whether we can pass penalties imposed by the DFB on to those who were originally responsible," said Thomas Schönig, who is responsible for fan culture and safety at Cologne, in a statement posted on the club's website.
"This is an important signal for the safety of our supporters because it means that in the future, troublemakers will to calculate the consequences of their misconduct," he added.