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Fußball: Fans zurück im Stadion – neue Euphorie, alte Konflikte?

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Status: 12/25/2022 12:37 p.m

After the end of the corona restrictions a few months ago, the Bundesliga stadiums are full again. The fans are back – and so are old issues.

They’re traveling again, they’re partying again – and some are igniting pyrotechnics again: After the end of the corona restrictions last spring, football fans are again making pilgrimages to the stadiums in large numbers.

The arenas are full, a good atmosphere and choreographies create images that are reminiscent of the times before the pandemic. But is everything really the same? An inventory:

The payment:

Two years without a visit to the stadium or with a light stadium experience and only sparsely occupied ranks: For many supporters, an important part of their fan existence broke away during the pandemic. Quite a few observers and experts feared that the Germans would be weaned from their most popular sport.

At least in terms of the number of spectators in the Bundesliga, that has not happened: the stadiums are as full as ever. On average, around 42,500 people attended the games in the current season. According to the German Football Association (DFB), there were 43,441 spectators per game in the last season before the 2018/19 pandemic, which is only slightly more.

The picture in the curves:

They create atmosphere and shape the stadium experience: With the end of all restrictions, the active fans and the last ultra groups have also returned. “The fan scenes are just in the mood for the stadium and everything that goes with it,” says Oliver Wiebe from the umbrella organization for fan aid, describing the mood.

This is noticeable in loud singing, colorful flags and a football atmosphere that has not existed for a long time due to the corona. This is also noticeable through the use of pyrotechnics, which are prohibited in the stadium. A trend has been observed here since the restrictions were lifted: Before the pandemic, fans burned torches, especially at away games. This season, pyrotechnics are being used more intensively by some fan scenes in their own stadiums.

Controversial topic pyrotechnics:

The glowing torches and censers remain an issue with potential for conflict. What is part of the fan culture for some supporters regularly costs the clubs money. The DFB consistently punishes the burning of pyrotechnics. “In my view, the heavy use of pyrotechnics is also a consequence of the failed association policy,” says Wiebe in an interview with the German Press Agency. “The DFB has broken off talks with the active fan scene on the subject of pyrotechnics, and that sometimes leads to defiant reactions along the lines of ‘now more than ever'”.

Among other things, because they feared the use of pyrotechnics, the police had checked fans of the guests at the Wolfsburg train station before the VfL Wolfsburg game against Werder Bremen. The incident caused a great deal of criticism in early August. The ultras found the police measures disproportionate and returned to the Hanseatic city in protest.

Potential for conflict between active fans and the police:

From the point of view of many fans, the actions of the officials in Wolfsburg were just one example of a relationship that had been problematic for years. “We are experiencing a police encirclement and the criminalization of fans. It is constantly assumed that something is up to it,” says Wiebe from the umbrella organization for fan aid. Operations like the one in Wolfsburg, where Lower Saxony’s Interior Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) later admitted that the competent authority had failed, he too finds inappropriate. “We want to help fans to be right when they are right,” Wiebe explains the goal of the fan aid and emphasizes: “We don’t want to protect thugs or anything like that.”

During the pandemic, the “active fans and ultra groups, who are often seen as disruptive,” dealt with the situation very responsibly, says Wiebe. He complains that the relationship between supporters and the police, which was already tense before Corona, has not improved. He blames the officials for this. “We haven’t seen any improvements on the part of the police since the corona pandemic, although there was enough time for a rethink and the fans have shown that they are responsible,” says the Magdeburg resident. “It’s a blow to the fans.”

Wiebe complains: “The number of fans being escorted by the police has increased – and so has the material rearmament.” As an example, he cites high-tech cameras used to monitor fans, drones and water cannons around the stadium. In his view, “disarmament is needed” to defuse the conflict between the police and fans.

Rainer Wendt, Federal Chairman of the German Police Union, finds the term “armament” in connection with police work inappropriate. The 66-year-old says: “The police are constantly striving to optimize their equipment, in particular to improve the protective equipment for the emergency services. In view of the constantly more than 10,000 violent or violent disruptors alone in the football field, this is also necessary.”

Wendt sees it this way: “The executives do not order police measures to restrict freedom for fun, but because this is imperative for reasons of criminal prosecution or to avert danger.” General allegations against the police are not suitable for contributing to relaxation.

“The number of people willing to use violence or seeking violence has remained almost unchanged, and the high number of criminal charges processed and the confiscation of prohibited objects speak for themselves,” he says: “Things are going well with fans, less so with rioters.”

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