With new security measures, Germany's Bundesliga has called a truce with politicians pressuring it for stricter controls. But the proposals come at the expense of their relationship with fans, says DW's Joscha Weber.
With an eye on security, German politicians had threatened to ban the popular standing areas at Bundesliga soccer games, proposed phantom matches played in empty stadiums, and called for clubs to share in the cost of extra security, with the consequence being higher ticket prices for fans. In short, the far-reaching autonomy of soccer in Germany was in doubt.
But with its agreement on all 16 items of the new security measures, the German Football League (DFL) has pulled its head out of the noose - and yet remains guilty of serious misconduct.
Those in charge did not support fans with their decisions, but came out against them. The DLF was made aware of this lack of communication promptly after their decision: no less than 600 disappointed fans, gathered outside the Frankfurt conference center where officials were meeting behind a police cordon, spoke of further protests. They were peacefully demonstrating against the security concept, much as they have been in recent weeks in stadiums across Germany.
Not surprisingly - after all, fans were only reluctantly involved in the discussions, and were even ignored on several key points. The more stringent entry controls were a particularly heated point of contention, and yet these were not removed from the proposals.
When are full-body checks 'reasonable'?
Entry controls are expected to be "reasonable" and "appropriate," said league vice-president Peter Peters. But what is " reasonable," and who can define it? Not unjustly, this has left some fans with a queasy feeling. Being forced to completely undress in order to gain entry to a stadium - a tactic already seen in Munich - is not a security measure, but a weakening of fundamental rights.
But aside from fans, hardly anyone has until now taken offense to this plan. While the introduction of full-body x-ray scanners that allow airport security officials to see beneath clothing has sparked public outrage, this "total control" of fans' access to stadiums has been mostly ignored by society at large. No wonder, then, that ardent soccer fans have become synonymous with "violent criminals" in the wide-ranging media debate.
Fans must distance themselves from violence
Of course, the hardcore hooligans who only come to the stadium to live out their violent fantasies must be punished. And peaceful fans should distance themselves from these violent agitators. The vast majority of fans are peaceful supporters of their clubs. Yes, there were 1,142 injuries in the stands of preseason games of both the first and second divisions, but given that 18.7 million fans were in attendance, this figure becomes much less dramatic.
For this reason, many fans believe that some of the measures in the DFL's security proposals feel like collective punishment. With these measures, ticket quotas for risky away games can be reduced, affecting not just the few but all fans who want to travel to see their team play. This is a mistake - doing so will cause the DFL to promote solidarity between the peaceful and violent fans. The DFL was quick to point out that a restriction on ticket sales would require a good reason, but the damage was done long before the decision was made.
Protests will continue
The debate should not have come to this point. More dialogue between officials and fans would have helped. Now, however, the fan protests will continue. And yet, Germany's soccer culture has not been threatened - at least according to league President Reinhard Rauball. Perhaps not the culture, but the good atmosphere in the stadiums has certainly been dampened.
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