1. FC Union Berlin: Football: Understandable fan protest, DFL makes it easy for itself

Final celebration with tennis ball: Union’s Benedict Hollerbach in front of the fan block

Photo: imago/Matthias Koch

German professional football is in turmoil. The game between 1. FC Union and VfL Wolfsburg in the Alte Försterei on Saturday provided a good picture of its condition. During the half-time break, Christopher Trimmel gave information about it, rested and with a clear head. “A protest should hurt, otherwise you won’t see or hear it,” said the red-banned Berlin captain after the first round, which was marked by renewed fan protests against an investor’s planned entry into the German Football League (DFL) and the resulting ones The whistle was blown after 80 minutes rather than 45 minutes.

From the player’s point of view, this was of course not ideal, Trimmel admitted: “We are leading, so I’m taking something positive out of it.” Shortly before the half-time whistle, Danilo Doekhi’s header had put the hosts in the lead. It remained 1-0 – an important victory for Union in the relegation battle. What was remarkable, however, was not the uneventful game that Wolfsburg dominated, but rather the general conditions.

Tennis balls are not a crime,” chanted the fans of both clubs, throwing hundreds of them onto the field. The DFB, as the organizer of the game, sees it differently and asks the clubs to pay for throwing objects. His referees have a four-step plan for such incidents: interruption, leaving the field, going to the dressing room, abandoning the game. After referee Matthias Jöllenbeck had pulled out the first three stops and was ready to lead the teams back onto the pitch, stadium announcer Christian Arbeit announced: “It is the referee team’s last attempt to bring the game to an end.”

There was no sign of displeasure from spectators – as in other stadiums – about the long interruption in the Alte Försterei. There was a relaxed discussion in the stands and the break in the game was used to go to the drinks counter. This good mood could be the result of the clarification of the complex conflict. In the stadium magazine, Union’s ultra-group “Wuhlesyndikat” provided information about this on two pages. Their criticism was abbreviated and read on banners in the stadium: “DFL-approved investors: supported by Saudi blood money.” The two “private equity companies” Blackstone and CVC are the investors favored by the league association. Their general “locust behavior” as a business principle, the special connections to Saudi Arabia and the multiple connections in world sport were discussed in detail in the stadium booklet.

The DFL makes it easy. During the week she published a “dialogue offer” to the fan scenes in a highly media-focused manner. This once again publicly put football fans in the bad corner. Because the rejection of this offer was foreseeable. The nation’s largest fan association “Our Curve” explained why in its subsequent press release: “It does not contain any offer for negotiations.” Union Ultras formulated their criticism more specifically on another banner: “An offer to talk after a decision has already been made? Who are you kidding?”

The DFL’s goal is clear: money. Between six and nine percent of the media revenue is to be sold for one billion euros over a period of 20 years. The votes of the 36 professional clubs show how dubious and controversial this concept is. The first failed last May due to the necessary two-thirds majority. Contrary to what was announced, supervisory board chairman Hans-Joachim Watzke did not accept this “democratic decision”. In the second vote in December, 24 clubs decided in favor, exactly the number necessary. The fact that Martin Kind, as a representative of Hannover 96, voted yes, contrary to his club’s demands, is another important point of criticism.

On Friday, “Our Curve” formulated the intention of the – peaceful – fan protests once again on behalf of all scenes: “We demand that an open and therefore transparent new vote on the DFL investor deal be initiated immediately.” That is by no means presumptuous. Not only in view of the course of the conflict so far, but also because of the fact that some clubs are also demanding this.

Part of the turbo-capitalistically organized business are the football professionals. That’s why voices like Christopher Trimmel’s mentioned at the beginning are important – even more so live on the microphone of the broadcasting television station. Others should also be mentioned. Maximilian Arnold was disappointed to answer questions after the defeat in Berlin. The Wolfsburg captain’s opinion on the fan protests: »How else are they supposed to show it? They’re trying to generate attention, which is their right.”

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