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Row over soccer policing costs enters extra time

March 29, 2019

Top clubs can, in essence, be made to contribute to the costs of policing high-profile Bundesliga matches, a German court has found. Who should pay for individual troublemakers, however, remains unresolved.

Werder Bremen - Hamburg
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Jaspersen

Germany's Federal Administrative Court on Friday passed on making a decision on whether the German football league (DFL) should pay extra policing costs for matches where fan violence is deemed to be likely.

City officials in Bremen, who originally invoiced football authorities for policing at a Werder Bremen-Hamburg match, say they don't see why taxpayers should foot the bill.

The case in brief

  • The court in Leipzig referred the case back to Bremen’s Higher Administrative Court, but said that the charge was “generally conformed with the constitution.”
  • The DFL had appealed an earlier decision by the Bremen court, which had decided the football authorities were liable.
  • The city state of Bremen first sent the DFL a bill of 425,000 euros ($523,000) for increased police costs linked to the high-risk match between Werder Bremen and Hamburg on April 19, 2015.
  • Since then authorities have sent several more demands, bringing the total to about 2 million euros.

What the judge said

"The legality of the charge notification is not yet completely determined," said Judge Wolfgang Bier, who ruled that the Bremen court would have to clear up several points.

Bier said the way that the costs were calculated needed to be examined and that there was a danger of entities such as clubs being charged double."A fee may be charged in principle for the extra police costs of a high risk commercial event," Bier added.

Borussia Dortmund v Hertha
High-profile games require a large police presenceImage: Reuters/l Kuegeler

Bundesliga's beef with Bremen

Bremen's state Interior Senator Ulrich Mäurer has insisted that the DFL has an obligation to pay, given the revenue that can be generated by top-level football.

"We have a professional league which generated a turnover of 4.4 billion euros last year. It can not be that the league keeps all income but that the state and the taxpayer come up for all the costs," Mäurer told public broadcaster NDR Info earlier in the week.

Read more: The persistent problem of racism in football

Mäurer welcomed the court's decision on Friday, saying that the court had "written legal history."

DFL chief Reinhard Rauball, who has argued that German football clubs already pay a large amount in tax, responded by saying that many of Germany's states rejected the notion of making football clubs and the league pay.

"We have heard that the ministers of the interior of Bavaria, Baden Württemberg and Hesse have rejected the charges," said Rauball.

"We have a kind of patchwork in terms of fees, which touches on the question of equal opportunities of clubs  depending on which state they belong to. "

What's next?

The DFL had initially been successful at a Bremen administrative court challenge against the fee, but an appeals tribunal found in favor of the city. The Bremen court is now tasked with clearing up the federal court's outstanding queries.

rc/rt (dpa, AFP, SID)

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