Bundesliga to vote on stadium security proposals | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 11.12.2012
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Bundesliga to vote on stadium security proposals

German soccer fans have united in silent opposition to proposals to introduce tighter security in and around the stadiums. But in the face of increasing violence, Bundesliga clubs are under pressure to take action.

"We have to do everything possible to ensure that our football stadiums become safer places for the 99.5 percent of fans who are peaceful," said the president of the German Football Association (DFB), Wolfgang Niersbach, in the lead up to Wednesday's vote on new security measures.

This year again saw an increase in violence at Bundesliga and other German matches. In extreme cases, hundreds of fans stormed the pitch, forcing an interruption of the game.

One of the most dramatic incidents came in October this year when Hannover and Dynamo Dresden fans clashed after a German Cup (DFB Pokal) fixture. The DFB's sports court punished both clubs on Monday this week, fining Hannover 70,000 euros ($90,650). The court also banned Dynamo Dresden, which is notorious for its violent fans, from taking part in the competition next year. For a second division side like Dresden, cup games against top-league opponents can provide a crucial financial boost.

Most of the incidents followed the same pattern: Fans of the home side attacked supporters of the other team - for instance when Cologne supporters hounded travelling Borussia Mönchengladbach fans last season by throwing bottles and rocks. They then jumped into cars and chased the Gladbach bus out of town, and several kilometers down the Autobahn.

HANNOVER, GERMANY - OCTOBER 31: Fans of Hannover light flares prior to the second round DFB Cup match between Hannover 96 and Dynamo Dresden at AWD Arena on October 31, 2012 in Hannover, Germany. (Photo by Joern Pollex/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Violence escalated during the second round of the German Cup in Hanover on Halloween

Tasked with stepping in to halt such clashes, the police often bear the brunt - with officers getting injured or squad cars suffering damage.

There has been a steady rise in soccer-related violence in Germany over the past 10 years. During this timespan 1,165 policemen and 4,044 football fans were injured, with a total of 41,335 people arrested before, during and after Bundesliga matches. These statistics were compiled by the federal government in Berlin in response to questions from the opposition at the end of last year.

The October 31 violence between Dresden and Hannover fans scarcely pointed to improvement after the report's publication.

Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, is home to more than a quarter of all professional Bundesliga clubs. At a time of budgetary constraints, the authorities there are keen to see the clubs pick up some of the policing tab.

"Our police devote almost one third of their time to football security issues which Bundesliga clubs refuse to deal with," according to North Rhine-Westphalia's interior minister, Ralf Jäger, who says the cost of police operations is spiralling out of control.

A fan is frisked by a security guard as he enters a German football stadium

Security will be tighter at the gates

In response to comments like these from top politicians urging clubs to act, the German Football League (DFL), which operates the Bundesliga, and the national governing body (DFB) have come up with 16 proposals.

One of them would force clubs to pay for police operations and any damage done to police property on match days. There is also a plan to require clubs to send their own security personnel with traveling fans to keep an eye on potential troublemakers before, during and after road games - and help diffuse any trouble. Fan representatives from both teams are to be included in preparations well in advance of any given match.

Another important point on the agenda is the stricter enforcement of an existing zero-tolerance policy towards flares and fireworks inside stadiums. Fans defy the blanket ban on a regular basis, lighting up flares in tightly-packed standing areas, sometimes hurling them in the direction of the opponents' supporters or onto the pitch. To prevent such behavior in future, the clubs want to introduce video surveillance of the stands throughout matches and tougher controls at the stadium entrances.

Dortmund fans and police officers in a standoff ahead of a game against Schalke

Dortmund versus Schalke is the most emotional derby in Germany

There are new provisions for what are classified as "problem matches" - local derbies between bitter rivals, whose fans have a long-standing and deep-rooted animosity and can be expected to clash before or after a match. Schalke and Dortmund are one example: Following the ever-emotional "Revierderby" derby two months ago, 180 hooligans were arrested.

The new proposals include allowing clubs to reduce the number of tickets allocated to the visiting team's fans, currently at around 10 percent of total capacity. This and the possible reduction of standing areas are among the most contentious issues.

Fan organizations say supporters will have to foot the bill for heightened security, by virtue of increased ticket prices.

They argue that especially standing areas are vital so as not to exclude those who can't afford the high price of tickets in the seating areas - in other words those faithful grassroots fans who are the heart and soul of German fan culture.

A supporters' banner reads 12:12 - without a voice there is no atmosphere

12 minutes and 12 seconds of silence to protest restrictions

The security proposals, which are to be put to a vote on December 12, have prompted an unprecedented, nationwide fan response: The first 12 minutes and 12 seconds of all Bundesliga games on the last three matchdays were played in front of tens of thousands of silent supporters - a reference to the December 12 date.

The fans have protested with banners whose motto loosely translates as: "Without a voice, there's no atmosphere."

"Football fans fear they're being stigmatized in an unfair way,” said Volker Goll, the spokesperson for KOS, an organization that coordinates the various fan projects. He wants to see the clubs reach out more to the fans and include them in developing ideas for the future.

"I think we should ask why clubs and politicians don't make better use of the expertise of fan organizations,” Goll said.

In response to initial protests, fan clubs' suggestions were included in the paper that is to be voted on now. But this has not apeased all of them.

"If emotions cannot be expressed freely inside the stadium there is a real danger that bottled-up aggression will be released elsewhere in society," warned Goll, saying similar security steps Italy or England had not led to an improvement.

Instead, the German fans argue, Germany is the only country in Europe where everyone can still afford to buy a ticket to a top-flight match with good football and a breathtaking atmosphere. And that is what they hope to preserve.