With a never-ending rain of tennis balls, Hertha BSC fans protested against the German Football League's investor plans during prime time. Even abandoning the game now seems possible in the messy dispute.
The DFL defends its ideas as an opportunity for development and more competitiveness - and this does not appeal at all to some organized fans.
What happened in Berlin in the top second division game?
Already in the first half, tennis balls flew from the Hamburg block onto the field. From the 53rd minute onwards it started from the Hertha corner. The game was interrupted for more than 30 minutes and was about to be abandoned. Coach Pal Dardai and goalkeeper Marius Gersbeck tried to influence the fans. Only after referee Daniel Schlager sent the players off the field did the throws subside.
“No referee or club official wants a game to be canceled because of this. Ultimately, we have to continue the game at some point,” said Schlager on Sport1. "If that's not possible, you have to resort to the last resort in the end - that would have been abandoning the game. Theoretically, it was definitely possible today." There was also a ten-minute interruption in the Freiburg-Stuttgart game on Saturday because fans threw objects onto the pitch. In Cologne, golden chocolate thalers flew onto the square.
Why do people keep protesting?
The active fan scenes seem to have the feeling that the DFL wants to wait out the protests and there is no reaction. "This vote with the approval that an investor can enter the league is totally wrong. And we have to try somehow to defend ourselves against it," a representative of the Hertha fan scene told the Berlin team on Saturday evening after the game. It was also said that a game abandonment would have been accepted.
Was plant die DFL?
A financial investor is expected to pay one billion euros for a percentage share of the TV revenue. The DFL wants to invest a large part of the income in the further development of the business model, especially in strengthening foreign marketing and preventing piracy. According to Supervisory Board Chairman Hans-Joachim Watzke, the investor will be presented this season. The DFL reduced the number of applicants from the initial five to the two companies Blackstone and CVC in a unanimous decision by the Executive Committee.
What are the fans criticizing?
There is general skepticism among active fan scenes towards investors in football because they see this as a threat to traditions and the continued commercialization of the sport. At Hertha, for example, after Lars Windhorst's investment, they experienced almost all the downsides of such models.
The process is criticized for this. In the final vote of the 36 professional clubs for the billion-dollar deal in December, the necessary two-thirds majority was only barely achieved. Martin Kind's voting behavior for Hannover 96, who was instructed by the parent club to oppose it, raised questions. The fan alliance “Our Curve” is calling for the vote to be repeated.
What threatens Hertha - what might the fans face?
The cash-strapped second division team fears financial consequences. “This will result in a severe penalty,” said managing director Thomas Herrich. He showed understanding for the protests - with restrictions. "I completely understand the criticism. It is completely legitimate to take actions and express criticism. The manner is different. That went on for too long for me," said the 59-year-old.
The DFB announced that the control committee would investigate the events surrounding the interruption of the game in the new week. The legal and procedural rules show that the fine usually depends largely on the amount of objects thrown and the length of the interruption in the game.
According to sports lawyer Paul Lambertz, fans could have to cover the costs. “This is a claim for damages and you can enforce it with the fans,” he told the German Press Agency on Sunday. "Not with all fans, but only with those who caused this disruption. You then have to see whether you can identify them." This could be the case, for example, if the German Football Association imposes a fine on a club or a game without spectators.
“That can quickly amount to tens of thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of euros, which could be in the room as compensation,” said Lambertz. “These are not claims that can be avoided through personal bankruptcy.”
Is a rapprochement possible?
The fronts have hardened. Herrich announced a dialogue with the fans at Hertha, but the Berliners voted against the entry of an investor anyway. It will be more exciting to see whether the DFL or other clubs approach the fans again. Watzke recently said: “The discourse with critical fans makes us all stronger.” Without the active and colorful fan community, the stadium experience would be significantly poorer. “Mutual respect in the discussions is essential and, to be honest, sometimes it can still be improved,” he said.