DFL investor: Fan representative Helen Breit: “Success of democracy in football”

Effective, peaceful and democratic: The protest, like here in Hertha’s Ostkurve, with calculated interruptions to the game was worth it.

Photo: imago/Contrast

The German Football League (DFL) has declared its investor plans over. How surprised were you on Wednesday?

Very. But not so much that the process was stopped, but how. I fully expected a new vote, which in my opinion would not have been favorable for investors to join. I was also pleasantly surprised by the unanimity of the DFL Presidium.

How do you rate the DFL statement, in which the fans were barely mentioned?

I see it differently. From my perspective, fans are mentioned several times. The decision is based on the effects of the protest: the game interruptions and the ongoing discussions in the clubs. From the DFL’s perspective, I can understand the option they have now chosen. It is the one that is likely to lead to the fewest subsequent internal conflicts. And she emphasizes the great importance of the 50+1 rule, i.e. that voting sovereignty always lies with the registered clubs. This common commitment is extremely important, especially given the circumstances in which the two-thirds majority was achieved in the vote. At the same time, the DFL is now called upon to immediately address the problems that have become apparent in complying with the 50+1 rule.

Interview

dpa/Philipp von Ditfurth

Helen Broad is a supporter of SC Freiburg and a board member of the Supporters Crew Freiburg. The 36-year-old social worker is also a member of the “Future Professional Football” fan network and was a representative in the DFL task force of the same name.

Were they the most effective fan protests in Germany to date? And was the withdrawal of investor Blackstone a success in itself?

Yes, in my opinion yes. This is mainly because the decision could still be influenced – due to high doubts as to whether the DFL’s own 50+1 rule was adhered to during the vote. This made the demand for a review of the decision an unavoidable argument. In addition, there is the choice of an extremely visible and noticeable, but at the same time peaceful and democratic protest. This is also linked to the high level of unity on this topic, far beyond active and organized fan scenes. What was also important here was the influence that the members had over their co-determination rights in the clubs. I would rate Blackstone’s interim withdrawal as a partial success.

Was the power of the curve underestimated? And were other parties involved in this months-long process not taken seriously?

I believe that the flaw in the vote, which the DFL itself is responsible for, was underestimated: they decided on a secret election on such a fundamental issue – despite the experience from the previous, failed vote. They let the case involving Martin Kind and Hannover 96 slide, which has now fallen on their feet. And they definitely underestimated how compatible, because reasonable, the related demand for a new vote was and is.

The DFL continues to talk about the need to strategically develop professional football, but needs outside money to do this. Is there no alternative as it is portrayed?

There is certainly a sensible need for investment at the league level. It’s still not clear to us: What overarching goal should be achieved? International competitiveness is always mentioned as a buzzword without specifying where we see ourselves and in what future prospects, and then spelling out what measures need to be taken to achieve this. Only then should you clarify how much money it costs and how it can be paid for. We seriously question the fact that third-party money is needed for this – because there would also be the possibility of self-financing if the clubs forego a proportional distribution of the central proceeds. Above all, there is the question that still needs to be clarified between the clubs: What fundamental goals do they want to pursue in the future?

The criticism from the fan scenes was also expressly directed against “Saudi blood money” from private equity companies. Would another investor be acceptable?

Before we should talk about whether and, if so, which investor would be acceptable under what conditions – it would certainly not be one from the private equity industry or one whose sources of money do not comply with human rights – one must talk about whether one is necessary . And from a fan perspective there is agreement that this necessity does not exist in professional football.

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Have the joint actions of the last few months also structurally strengthened the German fan scene?

It’s not like this is the first protest and the first resistant behavior in and out of fan scenes. What was special, in my opinion, and which will certainly benefit in the future, is the interlinking of the exercise of co-determination rights as club members and the opportunity to express one’s concerns in the stadium. It was definitely shown here: clubs and their members are the democratic basis of football that cannot and must not be ignored.

The DFL painted a bad picture of the fans with its public dialogue offer, which was rejected. Why? And what should happen next?

Firstly, because it wasn’t an offer of dialogue, but rather the writing gave the impression that the fans simply didn’t understand the plan. And if you just explained it to them again, all their criticism would evaporate. Secondly, the DFL leadership has bypassed its own committee for assessments from a fan culture perspective: the Fans & Fan Cultures Commission has not been involved once in the entire process since last summer. And thirdly, the DFL (and the DFB) have had the problem for almost a decade that no ultra group is in dialogue with them – and the investor process confirms all those who insist that there is no worthwhile and goal-oriented dialogue with the associations . I consider dialogue to be essential for shaping the future together – however, the associations are first required to rethink and take fans and their concerns into account. The wishes, recommendations and demands for the development of professional football and fan culture conditions are available in a number of documents and statements – the associations must finally take these seriously and make advance payments by implementing suggestions.

The German Football Association (DFB) intervened very late, at least publicly. Is his criticism of the DFL perhaps helpful for the future?

The DFB’s statement on the importance of 50+1 is very important and correct. It will be helpful if the DFB doesn’t stop at heckling, but rather shows that it is taking action itself and taking responsibility for the social anchoring of professional football, for measures to promote integrity in competition and for the binding consideration of fan and member interests. To be honest, there is still a lot to do in-house.

There was no abandonment of the game. The fan scenes seemed to accept this, but the DFL and DFB absolutely wanted to prevent it. What would have been good and what would have been bad about abandoning the game?

It is pointless to evaluate this afterwards. This is also about the fact that the DFL, together with the refereeing, was able to decide for itself and decided which forms of protest were tolerable, for how long, and when and which consequences would be drawn from them. In any case, it would have been an escalation of the conflict that has never happened before and would have presented everyone involved with various challenges. Just the question of how a game like this is rated when both home and away fans protest. In addition – as the DFL Presidium also recognized – it was in the hands of the DFL whether it got to that point or not, as that would have meant that the existing protests would not have been enough to prompt a rethink.

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