East German football and the Fall of the Iron Curtain

It’s late summer in 1989 and something strange is happening all across the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Gorbatchow’s policy of glasnost had taken hold across the Soviet Union and the people of East Germany were growing tired of the restriction and oppression. This growing sentiment over the course of the autumn of 1989 culminated in the “Peaceful Revolution”, a wave of non-violent protests that swept across all of East Germany’s major cities. The Berlin Wall fell on 9th November and, eleven months later, Germany was a unified nation again. The fusion of two societies that had been polar opposites for more than four decades was a mammoth task in every respect, the effects of which are still being felt today over 20 years down the line. The unification of both country’s national sport, football, was no different.

Football in West Germany developed much the same way as football around the rest of western Europe. In East Germany, however, the situation was much different. Football clubs were backed either by state ministries or by massive state-owned combines and the sport was used by the ruling party, the SED, to prove the prowess and fortitude of the East German nation. From the early 1960s onwards, highly skilled footballers were concentrated around a handful of “centres of excellence”, which included all the clubs familiar to most English football fans from those early, patchy TV broadcasts of European Cup ties. All footballers were technically employees of the respective club backers: Dynamo Dresden players were policemen, those at army-backed FC Vorwärts Frankfurt technically soldiers. As a result, they were amateur sportsmen like any other and, according to the socialist principles of equality, were seen and treated merely as any other factory worker or civil servant.

However, in reality footballers were often paid underhand bonuses in almost total secrecy. They were given cars or houses as rewards for success or to encourage players to complete a transfer. When Lutz Lindemann moved from Rot-Weiß Erfurt to Carl Zeiss Jena in 1977, he received a Trabant full of fruit as a “sweetener” and was promised a large house up in the hills surrounding the city. Right through the 1980s, transfers only really ever took place if the Deutscher Fußball-Verband (DFV – East German FA) ordered players to move to certain clubs or if money changed hands illegally. It was a world away from the million-pound transfers of English football in the 1980s.

By early November 1989, the Oberliga had reached match day 10. On Wednesday 8th November, FC Magdeburg travelled to bitter rivals Dynamo Dresden looking to preserve their slim one-point lead at the top of the table. Dynamo sent Magdeburg packing with a 3:1 victory with a brace from Torsten Gütschow and 30-yarder from Matthias Sammer, preserving the side’s unbeaten start to the season. However, the minds of players, coaches and fans alike had long since been elsewhere

Peaceful protests had gathered momentum across the country and half a million people had taken to the streets in Leipzig two days earlier. East Germany was becoming increasingly porous, with citizens fleeing to the West through Czechoslovakia and Hungary. On the evening of the Thursday 9th November, Günter Scharbowski, a member of the Politbüro of ruling party SED gave a now infamous press conference in which he declared that East Germany borders were effectively open. The new regulations were supposed to apply from the next morning, but Scharbowski committed what proved to be a fatal error for his nation by announcing that the borders were open “immediately”. That night the Berlin Wall fell and jubilant East and West Germans were reunited up and down the country.

The DFV had long since recognised that the West German Bundesliga could perhaps be a desirable destination for many of the East German footballers under its management, especially after several national team players had fled after away matches in Western countries or after travelling abroad with their clubs for European Cup matches. In late October 1989, it approached all Oberliga footballers and requested that they sign central contracts in line with FIFA statutes. These contracts effectively meant that no East German player could be transferred to another country without DFV consent. It proved to be a sage move, as developments in the GDR hadn’t gone unnoticed in the boardrooms of the Bundesliga giants, either. With protests gathering momentum and revolution in the air, managers and directors of football at teams such as Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen had recognised the chance to hand-pick the best talent East Germany had to offer.

On 15th November, just under a week after the East had effectively crumbled, the East German national team travelled to Austria for a key World Cup qualifier. The talented squad contained a number of the under-20 side that had finished third at the World Youth Championships in Chile two year previously, including Matthias Sammer and FC Karl-Marx-Stadt midfielder Rico Steinmann. Placed in a group with the USSR, Austria, Iceland and an emerging Turkish side, East Germany appeared to have been heading for an early exit from the qualifying tournament after back-to-back defeats against Turkey and only a draw at home to the Austrians. However, an impressive victory over the USSR at the start of October with two goals in the last ten minutes from Andreas Thom and Matthias Sammer meant that, provided Turkey lost to the USSR in Simferopol on the final match day, all East Germany needed was a draw in Vienna to qualify for Italia ’90.

Almost as soon as the East German players arrived at the team hotel in Vienna, they were swamped by agents, scouts and managers from Bundesliga sides. Rainer Calmund, then manager of Bayer Leverkusen, sent an army of scouts together with youth team manager Wolfgang Karnath, whom Calmund valued for his persistence. Karnath’s missions was clear: Get the exact addresses and contact details of Thom, Kirsten, Sammer and co

Despite the backing of over 5,000 travelling fans enjoying their first ever away match in “the West” with the national team, East Germany succumbed to a Toni Polster hat-trick and lost 3:0. Steinmann missed a penalty. As he was subbed off late on in the match, Matthias Sammer suddenly found himself sat on the bench next to a man he didn’t recognise. It was Karnath. He had snuck into the ground by waving some kind of official-looking ID, pulled on a high-vis vest and posed as a photographer. “Rainer Calmund says his best wishes,” he said to Sammer. “We want to bring you to Leverkusen. How about we meet later on at the hotel?” Andreas Thom was approach as he trudged off the pitch at the final whistle – a meeting was arranged for later that evening.

After a little gentle persuasion and gifts to sweeten the deal, Thom agreed to join Bayer Leverkusen a few weeks later. All that was left for Calmund was to agree on the transfer amount with the DFV and obtain the approval of the Deutsche Turn- und Sportverband (DTSB). Thom played his last match for BFC Dynamo on 1st December, before becoming the first East German to be officially transferred to West Germany in January 1990, moving to Leverkusen for 2.8 million marks. He scored 15 minutes into his Bundesliga debut for Bayer Leverkusen on 17th February against FC Homburg and would go on to score a further 41 times in the Bundesliga for Leverkusen and then Hertha BSC either side of a spell at Celtic. Sammer would move to Stuttgart and Kirsten would end up with Thom at Leverkusen after reneging on a deal with Dortmund.

The fall of the Berlin Wall of course also had a profound effect on the fans of East German clubs. FC Karl-Marx-Stadt (now Chemnitzer FC) were playing in their first season of European competition for over 20 years after finishing third in the 1988/89 season. Against the odds, they beat both Boavista and FC Sion to reach the third round. They were drawn against the mighty Juventus and, with the first leg in Turin taking place on 22nd November, fans of the Westsachsen would be able to actually follow their team to a European away match officially for the first time instead of having to make do with television coverage. A total of 430 FCK fans paid 800 Ostmarks (a month’s salary at the time) each for a berth in the football special rail service through Bavaria and over the Alps. FC Karl-Marx-Stadt almost pulled off a mighty shock after taking a 70th minute lead in the Stadio delle Alpi, but ended up losing the leg 2:1 and the tie 3:1 after a 1:0 home defeat in front of a packed Stadion an der Gellertstraße.

By early 1990, capitalism had well and truly arrived in the Oberliga. East German teams bore sponsors on their shirts for the first time, players were given West German marks in addition to their regular Ostmark salaries. However, as was the case in many other aspects in the dissolution of East German infrastructure, not all investors from the West proved to have the cash they promised.

On 13th May, the East German national team played what proved to be their penultimate match. The venue was the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro against admittedly not the best Brazil side to ever grace the hallowed turf. Ricardo Teixeira, the head of the Brazilian FA, wanted to organize a friendly against a side that would really test the Brazilians in the run-up to World Cup 1990. As they would not be represented at Italia ’90, East Germany were the perfect choice. With flights and accommodation paid by the Brazilians, the group of players from a country that would cease to exist in less than five months’ time found themselves pulling on the national shirt for the penultimate time in front of 80,000 Brazilian fans. Despite trailing 3:1 after 59 minutes, goals from Rainer Ernst and a last-minute equaliser from Rico Steinmann secured the East Germans a respectable draw. Hans-Georg Moldenhauser, the man who would later mastermind the incorporation of the DFV into the DFB, said later that everyone thought manager Eduard Geyer was responsible for bringing the side up to such a standard, but the truth was that each and every player was doing his all to impress Bundesliga scouts and earn a lucrative contract.

The Oberliga season finished and, for the second season in succession, Dynamo Dresden took the title. Rekordmeister BFC Dynamo had lost the backing of the defunct Ministry for State Security and had renamed itself FC Berlin with the aim of shedding its controversial past. Dynamo Dresden also wrapped up the club’s third double by beating Eintracht Schwerin in the cup final. However, over the summer, Dresden lost the spine of their team with the departures of Ulf Kirsten, Matthias Sammer and Hans-Uwe Pilz. It would be the same story all over the Republik, with the best players seeking their fortunes in the more lucrative Bundesliga. Any clubs that were able to retain their best players were forced to offer large contracts far beyond their means, further exacerbating the financial difficulties that were to come.

The summer of 1990 also marked the first time an East German manager took over a West German club. Joachim Streich was perhaps one of East Germany’s most talented players. The former Hansa Rostock and 1. FC Magdeburg striker was the record Oberliga goal scorer (229 goals), most-capped East German national team player (102 appearances) and record national team goal scorer (55 goals). On 1 July 1990, he took the helm at upper-mid-table second-division side Eintracht Braunschweig but soon found himself under pressure. The East German training routines aimed at generating ultimate physical fitness didn’t go down well with the Braunschweig squad and Streich experienced petulance and a lack of respect that had been completely alien to him as a manager in the East. Eight months later he was sacked and Eintracht finished a lowly 13th.

The last ever Oberliga season began in August 1990. The stakes were high – two spots in the unified Bundesliga and five in the 2. Bundesliga for the 1991/92 season. The season’s card count of 544 yellows and 29 reds (compared with 512 yellows and 7 reds in 1987/88) shows how hard-fought the season was. This was East German football’s swansong, and it would go out kicking and screaming. The reunification of Germany saw interest in the Oberliga tumble, leaving the door open for hooliganism, now unleashed from tight state control, to take hold. The wave of violence reached a tragic climax in November 1990 with the death of eighteen-year-old FC Berlin fan Mike Polley. The hopelessly overwhelmed police force had attempted to contain a group of FC Berlin supporters after their side’s away match at FC Sachsen Leipzig and Polley was shot by a police officer. The death triggered further rioting across the country for the rest of the season, something that further damaged the popularity of the league.

On 4th May 1991, Hansa Rostock beat second-place Dynamo Dresden at the Ostseestadion to secure their first ever East German title and a passage into the Bundesliga for the 1991/92 season, where Dynamo would join them. Rot-Weiß Erfurt, Hallescher FC, Chemnitzer FC and Carl Zeiss Jena were promoted directly into the 2. Bundesliga, as were Stahl Brandenburg and Lokomotive Leipzig after a playoff. However, once in the unified leagues, East German sides found it difficult to attract the necessary quality to replace the top-class players that had left to join established Bundesliga giants. Ageing talents came in on big contracts and, plagued by mismanagement and short-termism almost across the board, many of the former East German clubs began on a relatively short road to ruin.

Dynamo Dresden battled against relegation for four seasons before being refused a licence and forced to start again in the third tier. Hansa Rostock, the final East German champions, fared a little better and were a permanent fixture of the Bundesliga between 1995 and 2005. Since then, however, they too have been plagued by financial difficulties. Minor success was also achieved at Energie Cottbus, but so far none of the former Oberliga sides have managed to establish themselves as true forces in German football.

The uncompromising and unstoppable wave of capitalism that engulfed East Germany after reunification undoubtedly harmed the former country’s football teams, but with infrastructure gradually being improved around the region, the foundations are gradually being laid for sustainable growth. New stadiums have been built in Berlin-Köpenick, Halle, Dresden, Magdeburg and Rostock and more are planned in Jena, Erfurt, Zwickau and Chemnitz. With financial mismanagement (hopefully) a thing of the past, the time may finally come for these well-supported, traditional sides to return to former glories.

 

 

Sources:

11 Freunde – “Wie die Ost-Stars die Wende erlebten“. This is an excellent timeline of the reunification, from which a lot of information in this piece was taken.

MDR – “Schwarze Kassen im DDR-Fußball

Die Welt – “20 Jahre Mauerfall: Wie Calmund DDR-Star Thom zu Bayer lockte

Tagesspiegel – “Fußball in Ostdeutschland: Brasilien ruft nicht mehr an

Die Geschichte der DDR-Oberliga, Michael Horn & Andreas Baingo.

The death of fan culture? Not quite

Yesterday afternoon in a nondescript Frankfurt hotel conference room, representatives from the 36 members of the Deutsche Fußball Liga, the 36 clubs that make up the Bundesliga and the 2. Bundesliga, got together to discuss and vote on the much-debated DFL Sicheres Stadionerlebnis concept. To cut a long story short, the programme of security measures was ratified in full. But what does this actually mean for football in Germany? The proponents of the concept waxed lyrical about increasing safety and reducing violence, whereas opponents criticised the plans as over the top, oppressive and in part against the German constitution. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.

The original concept released in the summer at the height of public hysteria on a relatively non-existent problem of violence in German football grounds was subject to widespread criticism and was rejected by most of the clubs that would eventually have to vote on it. The level of criticism, and particularly the tone of some clubs’ statements, took almost everyone, not least the DFL and DFB, by complete surprise. At the end of November, a revised version of the concept was released, final proposals that would be voted on on the 12 December. The concept itself consisted of 16 separate proposed changes to the DFL’s articles of association. They have yet to be published verbatim (and apparently last-minute changes were made to some), so this information is taken from Kicker:

Proposal 1: The role and function of club safety officers and fan liaison officers are to be defined in detail.

Proposal 2:Open, consistent and authoritative dialogue between clubs and fans is to be anchored in the provisions of DFL licences (German clubs require annual licences to play in the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga to guarantee they are financially and structurally sound).

Proposal 3/4: The scope of police CCTV observation must be improved to simplify the identification of criminals.

Proposal 5: Away teams’ stewarding teams is to be integrated into the safety organisation of the home team prior to matches. In the case of high-risk matches this is obligatory.

Proposal 6: The tasks to be performed by safety officer are to be defined more closely, including the use of the match report to document incidents (both positive and negative).

Proposal 7: The match organiser must always be present at said match. He or she must also attend safety meetings prior to high-risk matches.

Proposal 8: Inspection areas at stadium entrances are to be improved.

Proposal 9: Stewards employed by the clubs and those employed by third party companies must have completed the DFB’s training programme.

Proposal 10: The fan liaison officer must document all incidents, findings and safety-related events in the match report. He or she must also participate in safety meetings.

Proposal 11: The home team must justify the decision to classify a match as a high-risk encounter, which could lead to the away team’s ticket contingent being restricted.

Proposal 12: Certification concerning “Stadium and Safety Management” is to be introduced.

Proposal 13: A permanent Stadionerlebnis committee is to be introduced which will include representatives from fan organisations.

Proposal 14: Home teams will have the opportunity to restrict the away team’s ticket contingent, but only for high-risk matches and in exceptional cases.

Proposal 15: The DFB’s sport jurisdiction will be developed further, including the integration of expert representatives from the DFL and the DFL member clubs.

Proposal 16: Provisions are to be drawn up for the ringfencing of revenues from Bundesliga marketing (TV money) should safety measures be repeatedly contravened.

Despite DFL CEO Reinhard Rauball’s denial, these measures have been drawn up on the back of enormous pressure from politicians – in particular, the Innenminister der Länder (the home secretaries of Germany’s 16 federal states). The aforementioned public hysteria, coupled with talk-show, Loose Women-style inanity on almost a daily basis has forced their hand. Normal people, regular average Joes, saw those Düsseldorf fans storming onto the pitch just before the end of the promotion playoff against Hertha Berlin and immediately tutted and thought “Oh look, football fans are out of control once again, something has to be done!” even though they had little to no understanding of the context – all the while Mehmet Scholl declared he feared for his life in the comfort of the TV studio. On the basis of these incidents in Düsseldorf and others over the course of the season, the Innenminster recognised a chance to score some political points and lent on the DFL and DFB to do something. Zeit Online even postulate that politicians’ focus on football and an almost non-existent violence problem is a deliberate tactic to divert attention away from astounding state failings in the NSU neo-Nazi case.

On the back of this wave of public hysteria, the DFL organised a safety summit in July and then published the aforementioned draft concept. After such strong criticism, they went back to the drawing board and came up with a much watered down version of their plans in late November. Any mention of increasing stadium bans from five to ten years (a huge point of concern for active football fans) and colluding with the police and judicial authorities in criminal investigations was removed. Instead, what we are left with are a group of proposals that, for the most part, seem sensible. Any football fan that doesn’t see the benefits of increased fan liaison officer presence for away matches and fan group representation on a newly founded “safety committee” should probably find another sport to follow. The intention to reduce collective punishments should also be welcomed, although the DFB obviously didn’t get that memo in time to prevent Dynamo Dresden being banned from next year’s cup due to the actions of a select few prior to this year’s tie against Hannover 96.

Comments have been made that, as soon as the DFL and DFB bow to the pressure of the politicians, our fan culture here in Germany is under threat. In fact, many have now declared it to be “dead”. From my perspective, these measures indeed represent political intervention into a sport that, as ultras and active fans so often point out, belongs to the fans. But the truth is, it could be much worse. I may be a little naïve in this respect, but anyone believing that German football could turn into the Premier League is mistaken. Terracing is not under threat; in fact, the DFL actively stood up to the politicians calling for it to be abolished by saying that standing at football grounds simply isn’t up for discussion. Fan choreography is still permitted, cheap tickets still available, the 50+1 rule ensures that sheikhs or oligarchs cannot treat German football clubs as playthings. If these issues ever come up for debate, then they are certainly worth fighting for. To me, any declaration that fan culture is now dead represents exactly the same hysteria and bandwagon-jumping that the German public are derided for in their condemnation of football fans.

The argument that politicians shouldn’t be involved in football doesn’t hold any water for me either. Sure, their outbursts on television make a massive contribution towards shaping the public discourse on football to the detriment on many active fans, but football is and almost always has been a political issue. The political point-scoring in this affair has made dialogue between fans, the DFL/DFB and politicians almost impossible, but the DFL have simply been caught in the middle between clued-up fan organisations & critical clubs and politicians with next to no idea about who simply want to increase their popularity among their electorate. With the German elections taking place in autumn next year, this can be expected to continue. I’m not saying that these measures are harmless, just that the reaction in some places has been exaggerated. The worst thing that could happen now would be an escalation, with flares and trouble up and down the country every single week. The extra attention this safety concept has drawn on football and the concept of being a football fan would lead to the public thinking that politicians and the DFL were justified.

What’s important now is that fans don’t let this become more of a political issue than it already is. As I said, fans and football always will have that political aspect, but the biased reporting and public view of football fans as some kind of uncontrollable force needs to be counteracted. This cannot be done by throwing flares and chanting “Scheiß DFB”. The recent 12:12 protests in which fans remained silent for the first 12 minutes and 12 seconds of each match showed the incredible power football fans in Germany have. It wasn’t simply the ultras or the active fan groups that remained silent, everyone did. It created an extremely uncomfortable atmosphere and put across fans’ point of view in a simple, comprehensible manner – no six-page diatribes explaining why fan culture is at threat; after all, four-word headlines in BILD will always have a million times more of an effect, no matter how eloquently fan concerns are put across. Campaigns like this, the Zum Erhalt der Fankultur public demo in Berlin, Kein Zwanni für nen Steher and Pyrotechnik Legalisieren! Emotionen respektieren! are exactly the right route to go down. I hope that these measures don’t lead to fans “declaring war” on the DFL and DFB – that would be a sure-fire way to indirectly destroy a fan culture all football fans are trying to preserve.

 

The Safe Stadium Experience

In July, the German FA, the DFB, and the Bundesliga association, the DFL, organised a much publicised Security Summit in which, in the wake of public outcry at events at the end of last season, a Code of Conduct was drawn up and signed by almost all Bundesliga, 2. Bundesliga and 3. Liga clubs (covered on this blog). The Code of Conduct was subject to a huge amount of criticism from football fans from all walks of life for its fuzzy, unclear statements concerning subjects that most of us take as read anyway and seen as a means to appease the wider public and politicians who considered there to be a “new dimension of violence” in German football, despite reams of evidence to the contrary. Now, two months after the Code of Conduct was published, a document was leaked from the inner sanctum of the DFB and DFL entitled “Sicheres Stadionerlebnis” (“Safe Stadium Experience”). In it, the governing bodies put forward a range of proposals to “ensure that the stadium experience remains a safe one…”.[1]

Before this document was leaked, there was an interesting development at the DFL. A criminologist named Thomas Feltes employed in an “academic committee” run by the DFL gave a (quite astounding) interview to SPORT BILD in early September[2] where he strongly criticised the DFB’s approach to governing the sport and its fans. He criticised their lack of consistency and their unwillingness to lead an open discussion with fans/fan representatives on problems and solutions. He also slammed the stadium ban procedure, mentioning the fact that banning someone from public locations was a matter for the police and the judiciary and not something in which the DFB should be involved, before comparing them to a “pigeon-breeding association” where mandates of vital importance to football fans and society as a whole were awarded on a honorary basis. Let’s give them their dues, the DFB and DFL are at least consistent whenever criticism is levelled at them. Their solution in such situations is always the equivalent of putting your fingers in your ears and shouting LA LA LA, CAN’T HEAR YOU. Feltes was sacked.

If the Feltes case showed anything, it was that the DFB and DFL weren’t going to budge on any of their positions in terms of safety. What they see as problematic in German fan scenes has been met with sanctions and the threat of more (if you don’t behave, we’ll take away your terracing your naughty boys and girls). In truth, football violence is down.[3]

Then, in September, came the leak. In the preamble, the DFB and DFL declare that “… interaction between all those responsible for safety and supporter service is already at a very high level in terms of infrastructure and organisation and problems are solved locally.”[4] So far, so good. They also mention the need for improvement in this respect but, after reading the paper, it’s hard to avoid getting the impression that the organisation of football matches in this country is in absolute chaos. Other proposals outlined in the document include stricter and, above all, a greater number of sanctions and punishments “to increase acceptance of the jurisdiction of the sport and increase safety”. There are also threats of privileges being withdrawn, including a crystal-clear statement that football fans are not vested with the right to stand. Threats are also made to clubs should there be any non-compliance with DFB and DFL regulations, including proposals to introduce stricter stadium requirements into the licensing regulations (read: those who don’t comply won’t get a licence to play in top two tiers) and, perhaps most amazingly, a proposal to withhold a percentage of clubs’ TV money to offset against any fines for crowd trouble (read: use of pyrotechnics) which may occur over the course of the season.

There are some positives buried in there somewhere, including proposals to increase the presence the away team’s stewards and even stadium announcer at away games to prevent tense situations with home team stewards. Increases in the amount of funding received by fan liaison projects are also a very welcome move indeed, but it’s by no means enough. There is also a promise of better dialogue with fans, although any evidence of this has been thin on the ground.

The really interesting stuff comes when we get to the “Possible demands of third parties” section[5]. This is where we get a really clear picture of how the DFB and DFL see themselves. The first proposal is the request for a change in pyrotechnics legislation. Is that perhaps because the use of pyrotechnics is actually allowed by law under certain restrictions and conditions? After all, the DFB broke off negotiations with fan representatives and pro-pyro groups after initially stating that nothing stood in the way of pilot projects involving the controlled use of pyrotechnics. Would it be completely outside of the realms of possibility that the law actually allows controlled usage and that the DFB and DFL want that to be changed?

Another proposal in this section is regular reporting from the police authorities and the judiciary regarding the latest developments in investigations against potential crimes committed in football stadiums. Let’s make this clear, the DFB is not a public authority and the DFL is a private corporation, and they are considering requesting regular updates on criminal investigations…. What’s more, they are also considering requesting that the police notify them of identification checks that are carried out whenever there is the suspicion that a crime has been committed. Astounding! Again, this is an example of the criticism that came from Thomas Feltes, namely that the DFB and DFL are sticking their noses in where they have absolutely no right to.

The paper soon attracted criticism from all manner of bloggers and football fans, including St. Pauli blog Magischer FC, publikative.org and turus.net. The first official response from a club, however, came on Wednesday when 1.FC Union Berlin published an incredible nine-page assault on the DFB and DFL signed by the club, the fan liaison office and three fan groups (including the Szene Köpenick umbrella organisation encompassing various ultra groups). The statement not only picks apart almost every single one of the DFB and DFL’s points, but also highlights the fact that many of the proposals put forward will actually counteract and jeopardise all the progress that has been made in and around FC Union, leading to an escalation in the already strained situation which the clubs themselves will have to face and then duly be punished for. The following day, FC St. Pauli published a shorter statement along the same lines that describes their opposition to the moves.

There’s no doubt that crimes are committed at football stadiums and that those who do commit such crimes should be punished for their actions. As FC Union point out in their statement, our society is not free of violence, and therefore neither are our football stadiums. However, looking at the figures in relative terms, it’s a misnomer to say that football stadiums are dangerous places to be. According to police statistics from the 2010/2011 season, more than 17.5 million people watched a Bundesliga or 2. Bundesliga match. 846 (0.005%) were injured while doing so and 5,818 (0.033%) people had charges filed against them (although I dread to think how many of those injuries were caused by pepper spray or overzealous policing).[6] In comparison, (one also cited in FC Union’s statement) 6.4 million people visited this year’s Oktoberfest in Munich. 1,400 (0.2%) had charges pressed against them and 8,400 (0.13%) were injured.[7] In the media, football fans are compared to the Taliban while Oktoberfest is (rightly) seen as part of Germany’s culture – where’s the balance?

The way to solve violence in football stadiums and among young people is not through catch-all punishments such as exclusion from away travel or matches behind closed doors. In fact, this probably has the opposite effect as it punishes normal[8] football fans and everyone else and, if anything, attracts every more scorn in the direction of the governing bodies. The right solution is committed social work and appropriate preventative measures. As Thomas Feltes said in his interview with SPORT BILD, 95% of young football fans who are susceptible for being sucked in to violence can be reached out to by such measures. It’s high time the DFB recognised that taking such a hard line is only going to be met by opposition and ridicule. Their unwillingness to enter into dialogue with those who actually matter in football and who actually make the DFB and DFL’s “product” into the amazing spectacle that it is, is as petty as it is short-sighted.

The final word I think has to go to 1. FC Union Berlin. Let’s hope other clubs follow suit in condemnation.

“DFB/DFL mögen es sich leisten können, ökonomisch langfristig und damit sozialpolitisch kurzsichtig zu denken und zu handeln, sie stehlen sich damit jedoch aus einer umfassenden sozialen Verantwortung, die sie nicht gewählt haben mögen, die ihnen als Verwalter und Vermarkter, jedoch nicht Besitzer, des Kulturguts Fußball ohne Wenn und Aber obliegt.”

“DFB/DFL may believe they can think and act in long-term economic terms and therefore short-sightedly with regard to their social policy, but in doing so they are shirking their enormous social responsibility that is incumbent upon them as administrators and marketers, but not owners, of such a huge part of our culture, the game of football.”

For further reading in English, try Mark Wilson’s post on Union’s statement and the brief post from Yorkshire St. Pauli.
Sources:


[1] Item 5, page 5, Sicheres Stadionerlebnis, 27.09.2012

[4] Item 2, page 5, Sicheres Stadionerlebnis, 27.09.2012

[5] Page 32, Sicheres Stadionerlebnis, 27.09.2012

[8] By normal I mean non-ultras, so people with a season ticket who attend the odd away game but aren’t actively involved in their club

Chemie vs Chemie – Two clubs fighting over the remains of Sachsen Leipzig

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In the district of Leutzsch in north-west Leipzig, surrounded by countless allotments and acres of forest, is the almost idyllic Alfred Kunze Sportpark. The eclectic mixture of dilapidated terracing, overgrown passageways and battered temporary buildings blend into the surrounding forest seamlessly. For most, it’s an old and decrepit, for others it’s full of character – a relic of years past – and for the fans of two football teams, it’s simply home.

BSG Chemie Leipzig and SG Leipzig Leutzsch met on Sunday for what is probably the strangest derby in German football. To understand the significance, we firstly need to be delve into the history books. Although BSG Chemie Leipzig can trace its roots back to 1899, the first true descendent of football in Leipzig-Leutzsch is SV TuRa Leipzig which was founded in 1932. Like many other German sides after the second world war, the club underwent countless name changes and merged with a number with other clubs before eventually settling on BSG Chemie Leipzig in 1963. A year later, the club enjoyed its finest hour, winning the East German Oberliga title with a team consisting of leftover players not considered good enough to join elite, state-supported clubs. (For more on the Leutzscher Legende, check out Bundesliga Fanatic’s article here.) Success has been hard to come by since then. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, BSG Chemie Leipzig was renamed FC Sachsen Leipzig. The club managed to sustain its position in the third division throughout the nineties, but only on a couple of occasions threatened to make the step up to the 2. Bundesliga.

Away from the sporting side of things, FC Sachsen Leipzig developed a unique active fan scene around the turn of the millennium. Diablos Leutzsch were formed in 2000 on the wave of mentalita ultrà spreading around Germany. In contrast to the prevalence of questionable and even openly right-wing views within the active support of city rivals Lokomotive Leipzig and other local scenes such as those in Erfurt, Chemnitz and Halle, Diablos Leutzsch turned FC Sachsen Leipzig into the home of an “alternative, tolerant, openly anti-fascist fan scene”[1]. Their ever-present vocal support at FC Sachsen was backed up with colourful, imaginative fan choreographies.

Diablos Leutzsch increasingly lost touch with what they saw as the club abandoning its traditions in the search of sporting success. The arrival of Michael Kölmel and Kinowelt AG at the now ailing FC Sachsen Leipzig, and the total financial dependence on them as a result, proved to be the last straw. Diablos Leutzsch decided to resurrect the former name BSG Chemie Leipzig and formed their own club down in the 13th tier. Of course, this led to fractures among the fan scene. Many older FC Sachsen Leipzig fans saw the departure of the Diablos as treachery, the abandonment of the club in its hour of need. Indeed, this is one of the core reasons for the existence of SG Leipzig Leutzsch, who we’ll get on to shortly.

In the 13th tier, the Diablos found the freedom they had been looking for, away from the disparaging views of older FC Sachsen fans who didn’t really understand the idea of ultrà, and sadly also away from an ever-increasing right-wing presence on the terraces. Forbidden from the FC Sachsen Leipzig board from playing at the Alfred Kunze Sportpark, BSG Chemie Leipzig hosts their home matches at the Willi Kuhn Sportplatz in the west of Leipzig. FC Sachsen continued to fight bravely against financial meltdown but fourth- and then fifth-tier football wasn’t getting enough people through the turnstiles to prop the club up. With the Diablos gone, the Alfred Kunze Sportpark was practically silent and the feisty atmospheres of less than a decade ago merely a memory.

When FC Sachsen Leipzig finally succumbed to the financial pressures and was liquidated in 2011, it appeared to pave the way for BSG Chemie Leipzig to “inherit” the remains of the club and finally move back home to the Alfred Kunze Sportpark. However, a consortium headed by Bernd Bauchspieß, member of the ’64 title-winning side and three-time East German Oberliga top scorer, and Jamal Engel, former manager and youth team coordinator at Sachsen Leipzig, announced they would be forming a new club by the name of SG Leipzig Leutzsch.

The motives for this decision soon became clear: SG Leipzig Leutzsch’s new manager Jamal Engel stated publicly that there were sponsors willing to invest money in “Leutzsch football”, but not in a club where ultras played such a leading role. Whether that was entirely true will never be found out, but Engel has continued his anti-ultra sentiment ever since. Ever since its foundation, the club has been shrouded in mystery and, unfortunately, the right-wing element that was present at FC Sachsen in the latter days seems to have taken hold. Incidents in SG Leipzig Leutzsch’s eventful first season included a variation on the Hitler salute and anti-Semitic abuse being aimed at supporters of Roter Stern Leipzig in a cup match and the prominent presence of known neo-Nazi activist Thomas Gerlach at home and away matches (on the right) as part of the Lucka Supporters fan group. Despite the presence of two separate clubs fighting over the same inheritance, the presence and actions of SG Leipzig-Leutzsch fan base are, if nothing else, a vindication of the Diablos’ decision to distance themselves from that part of the fan scene in Leutzsch. As a Chemie-supporting friend put it, the existence of SG Leipzig-Leutzsch is, in principle, not a bad thing, given that all the wankers go there instead of to BSG Chemie.

Nevertheless, what this all meant was both clubs began the 2010/2011 season in the same stadium and the same league: the sixth tier Sachsenliga. On a cold and rainy autumn day at the start of the season, the two met for the first time and played out a drab 0-0. Unfortunately, despite a promising start, BSG Chemie neared the end of the season occupying an upper mid-table position, out of touch of the two promotion spots. SG Leipzig-Leutzsch also had nothing to play for, and so the second meeting in April was all about bragging rights. A glorious 0-1 for BSG Chemie which was duly celebrated like a title win in a rammed away end.

Approaching the ground on Sunday for the first derby of the new season, it was soon clear that something was different. It quickly transpired that Chemie fans were boycotting the match, instead choosing to have a barbecue and a bit of a party outside the ground. It turned out that this was in protest at 16 stadium bans being handed out for an incident at last year’s derby where a ticket office was attacked and stewards injured. The stadium bans were applied for by SG Leipzig-Leutzsch manager Jamal Engel the week of the derby and duly confirmed by the police and regional football association – why they weren’t applied for straight after the incident is a mystery, but Engel’s motives are clear: one-upmanship and a targeted attempt to hinder the BSG Chemie support. There’s no doubt that the incident last season was a criminal offence and that the guilty parties should be brought to justice, but the issuance of 16 stadium bans seemingly at random appeared to bear no relation whatsoever to the actual crime.

Chemie fans were offering “Solikarten” to show solidarity for the boycott instead of paying entry to the ground, with the money going to BSG Chemie instead of SG Leipzig Leutzsch. After all, a boycott would cost SG Leipzig-Leutzsch a six-figure sum with 500 Chemie fans expected and tickets priced at €7 each. Before the match, Chemie fans had been kettled outside a pub around the corner – police reports picked up by the press spoke of “150 rioting Chemie fans”. In reality, Mr Gerlach had made his presence well and truly felt outside said pub, which the Chemie fans weren’t that keen on. Make of that what you will.

In the actual match, SG Leipzig-Leutzsch – who quite unbelievably played in orange bibs on account of the green-green colour clash – ran out 2-0 winners. The general consensus outside the ground was that the first one was offside and the second was handball.

The future prospects of both clubs aren’t exactly secure. Word went round before the derby on Sunday that the SG Leipzig-Leutzsch management needed average crowds of 2,000 to cover costs. Sunday’s official attendance was 1195. As for BSG Chemie, the committed fanbase rooted in ultra culture is a real asset and, I hope, as long as they are behind the team, they have a chance of surviving and revisiting some of the glory days.

Links:
Photos from the derby here.
For any German speakers, Bastian Pauly’s blog at chemieblogger.de is an almost encylcopaedic chronicle of the rebirth of BSG Chemie, the death of FC Sachsen Leipzig and everything else. A must read.
Article from TAZ on the establishment of BSG Chemie: http://www.taz.de/!33063/

Alemannia Aachen – a fan scene in crisis

There are some pretty awful things in life – poverty, corruption, Margaret Thatcher, Stoke City – but until these things have some kind of direct, personal effect on you, it’s sometimes hard to perceive their true magnitude. It’s possible to structure your life so that you never have to get to grips with issues that make humans real shits. Of course, others choose to take a stand and hope to achieve some kind of change to whatever circumstance is particularly shitty. The easy option though is to continue living your life in ignorance of these things but in accordance with your own moral standards, safe in the knowledge that at least you have been true to yourself and your beliefs.

The problem is, when you are confronted with something that doesn’t fit with your ideals and provides clear proof that some people are in fact proper shits, it hits you all the more harder. I guess this happened to me in a way a couple of weeks ago. While browsing Ian Stenhouse’s excellent photo galleries for No Dice Magazine, I stumbled across an album from a match between Tennis Borussia Berlin and TuS Makkabi in the Berliner Liga. In one picture, TeBe fans are holding up a Spruchband which reads “Komplett BescheUrt – Nazis raus aus dem Tivoli” (Totally idiotic – Nazis out of the Tivoli) referring to the worrying developments in the Aachen fan scene over the past year.

TeBe fans show solidarity with Aachen Ultras

The second comment simply reads “Spastis”, the German equivalent of using spastic as a swear word. Then comes a series of questionable comments with clear right-wing tones – “Do you have any flags that have anything to do with football?”, “What a bunch of wankers” along with various statements along the lines of “football is football, politics is politics” (as in, they have nothing to do with each other).

As I mentioned, the Aachen active fan scene has been anything but harmonious over the past 2 years or so. In 2010, a group of fans split away from the main ultra group known as Aachen Ultras (ACU), calling themselves the Karlsbande Ultras (KBU). They cited “differences of opinion […] in many aspects of ultra culture, from the style of the support through to the ultra mentality as a whole […]” as the reason for the move. As a result, there were now two sets of active fans trying to create an atmosphere in the stadium – something that wasn’t particularly beneficial to either set of ultras or the team. At the start of the 2011/12 season, the Aachen Ultras decided to move from their traditional position behind the goal to block S6 in the corner of the stand behind the goal. KBU set up shop at the top of block S5. Although not explicitly mentioned, the fact that the ACU have an anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-discriminatory stance doesn’t make it that difficult to guess that the “differences in opinion” were. Especially after the incidents over the next few months…

During Alemannia Aachen’s home match in the 2. Bundesliga against FC Erzgebirge Aue in December 2011, members of the Alemannia Supporters fan group entered ACU’s block, firstly to try and steal their banners and then to exercise violence. A handful of group members and one steward were injured. This was accompanied by shouts of “Kick the shit out of them”, “S6 homos” and “Fuck off you Jewish pricks, you don’t belong here” (“Jewish” or “Jew” is used as a pejorative noun by neo-Nazis and bears no relation to them thinking that the target of the insult is of Jewish faith or not) from Karlsbande Ultras members who had come to the plexiglass partition between blocks S5 and S6 and had attempted to scale it. According to the ACU, insults such as these from the Karlsbande and from other Aachen fans were nothing out of the ordinary.

Aachen Ultras and Karlsbande Ultras split up in Braunschweig (source: http://www.mayener-alemannen.de)

The club pledged to identify the 20 or 30(!) members of Alemannia Supporters who were involved and hand out stadium bans. Alemannia Supporters issued an apology to all fans, but denied there was any political motivation behind the attack from so-called “loose cannons” within the group. Despite the promise from the club, the problems continued to spring up over the next few months. A few months later at an away match in Braunschweig, members of the ACU were refused entry to the away terrace by travelling Aachen stewards and the police for their own safety. They were instead led to the neighbouring seated stand and surrounded by police. After Aachen’s away match in Saarbrücken in early August 2012, members of Aachen Ultras were again brutally attacked by members of the Karlsbande Ultras and a fan liaison officer had to step in to protect a helpless victim who was being beaten on the floor. The stewards and police in Saarbrücken were hopelessly unprepared.

Both the Karlsbande Ultras and Alemannia Supporters denied that there was any political motivation and both distanced themselves from right-wing activities. Despite the fact that physical attacks were increasing and that fans of Alemannia Aachen were being attacked and intimidated, both in the stadium and at home, the club itself held a clear stance. “Provocation is coming from both sides. Both groups are at each other’s throats. This is a social problem which the club cannot resolve on its own.” Statements from the police in Aachen that the violence was “solely originating from Karlsbande”, that the group was “in the process of being infected with far-right extremists” and that “their target are the Aachen Ultras” seemed to fall on deaf ears. Karlsbande Ultras officially declare themselves as “non-political” – but the fact that several leading right-wing figures from the Aachen area such as NPD member Sascha Wagner were known to be members is pretty clear evidence contrary to this.

Aachen Ultras’ new home in Block S6

Some ultra groups showed solidarity with the Aachen Ultras – including those at Tennis Borussia Berlin of which images appeared on the No Dice Facebook page. Comments such as “ScheiSS ACU” (yes, the capitalisation of SS is deliberate) and another that was signed off “Sieg Heil” (which was deleted by the page admins, but not before charges were filed. CORRECTION: The comment was deleted by the user him/herself, but the site admins screenshotted and reported it before its deletion) make it pretty unequivocal that this is a political issue. The hypocrisy of these fans lambasting Aachen Ultras from their anti-fascist views by saying that politics has no place in stadia, only for them to then attack and insult them and almost drive them out of the stadium is quite incredible. The use of No Dice’s Facebook platform to spread these vicious views was shocking, a real smash in the face. I hope that the charges that were filed come to a satisfying conclusion.

There followed much debate between No Dice readers and fans as to whether comments such as these should be deleted and ignored, or whether they should be left there for all to see. On the one hand, you don’t want to give these people a platform, but, on the other hand, ignorance is almost acceptance and the problem needs to be drawn attention to. I applaud the editors’ decision to leave them there for all to see and commend their courage to pursue legal avenues. Aachen Ultras continue to follow the club from Block S6 but, until something is done about the right-wing virus ravaging the rest of the active fan scene, they will continue to do so in fear of their own personal safety.

In diesem Sinne: Nazis raus aus dem Tivoli.

EDIT:

Just after I finished writing this piece, it seems that Alemannia Aachen have finally taken action. Today it issued a statement announcing the following measures (amongst others):

1. Stadium bans for those involved in attacks in Saarbrücken.

2. Ban until further notice of all banners, flags, messages and any other fan articles bearing the name Karlsbande Ultras/KBU from the Tivoli stadium.

3. Ban on newsletters/flyers being distributed in or around the Tivoli.

4. Violations will be punished with stadium bans.

5. Increased police presence to protect fans.

At least something’s being done about the group itself. The next step for Alemannia Aachen is to recognise that they have a problem with right-wing violence in their fan scene and to do something about it.

DFB Security Summit shows astonishing lack of foresight

The suits at the Deutsche Fußball Bund (DFB – the German FA), Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL – the representative of Bundesliga clubs) and the German interior ministry left Tuesday’s Sicherheitsgipfel, or security summit, firmly of the belief that the new code of conduct will bring about a paradigm shift in Germany’s football stadia, but the truth is that all they have succeeded in doing is proving how out of touch they are with ultras and “regular” football fans alike.

The Code of Conduct is the DFB and DFL’s five-point plan to eliminate violence from football stadiums across the country. No form of violence will be tolerated, nor will the use of pyrotechnics in stadia. Stadium regulations must be enforced and sanctions must be consistent. The 54 members of the Bundesliga, 2. Bundesliga and 3. Liga were invited to sign and pledge their commitment to the code of conduct. With the sole exception of FC Union Berlin, all did so.

The roots of this entire issue go back to the 2010/11 season. At the beginning of the season, ultras and other fans from all over the country used the international break in September to join forces and protest for the preservation of fan culture. All rivalries were forgotten for one day as 40,000 fans, mainly ultras, marched through Berlin. The protest attracted international attention and issues included fan-friendly kick-off times, the abolition of stadium bans and the legalisation of pyrotechnics.

Fans of 1.FC Saarbrücken at the 2010 Fandemo
Source: http://www.unveu.de

Following on from the successful protest, a lobby group was formed by the name of Pyrotechnik legalisieren! Emotionen respektieren! – legalise pyrotechnics, respect emotions – with the aim of decriminalising what many fans see as a major part of German fan culture and paving the way for pilot projects to test out the controlled use of pyrotechnics in stadia. The initiative laid down clear regulations for they saw as the safe use of pyrotechnics: Flares should be lit by nominated, registered people at defined points in time and in specific areas of the stadium – no firecrackers, no fireworks and absolutely no throwing.

The group soon gathered support far and wide – not simply from ultra groups or fan representatives, but also from clubs themselves. The campaign was naturally supported by a large number of the banned pyrotechnic displays up and down the country, with ultras deliberately and consciously complying with the regulations put forward by the Pyrotechnik legalisieren initiative. The message from the ultras to the DFB was clear: Let’s sit down and talk about this, because searches at the turnstiles won’t stop us.

The breakthrough came in January 2011 – DFB safety office Helmut Spahn announced that the DFB would “take a serious look at what is possible and what isn’t.” The DFB entered into negotiations with the Pyrotechnik legalisieren initiative regarding pilot projects to test the safety of pyrotechnics in stadia. Explosive experts, the local authorities, and representatives of the police and fire brigade would all be involved. It appeared as though the DFB had finally acknowledged the willingness of the ultra groups to engage in real dialogue.

In response to this move, ultra groups held their promise of no pyrotechnics over the first three matchdays. This was seen to be a response to the pledge from the DFB that if ultras demonstrated how disciplined they could be, they would give then the chance to test out flares in a controlled environment. The anticipation grew and grew – ultras were tantalisingly close to a reality where lighting a flare did not automatically lead to a three-year stadium ban.

Suddenly, at the start of the 2011/12 season, the DFB announced that expert reports had proven that pyrotechnics in stadia posed a significant threat to the health and safety of all football fans. Although not officially released by the DFB, the Pyrotechnik legalisieren initiative managed to get hold of said expert reports and saw that the opposite had actually been concluded: Pyrotechnics would pose no additional threat to football fans provided they were used correctly and within a controlled framework. The disappointment was huge. After months of negotiations, the DFB had simply said Nein. Pro-pyro fans felt they had been duped.

This dismissal of the issue on the part of the DFB did little to solve the actual problems, but it did draw attention to the subject amongst the wider public. However, this may have done more harm than good, as several high-profile cases throughout the season led your average person on the street to see pyrotechnics as a sign of violence and ultras as violent gangs hell-bent on causing destruction wherever their team happened to be playing. The list of punishments for pyrotechnics and fan misbehaviour soon grew: Dynamo Dresden, Union Berlin, Hertha BSC, MSV Duisburg, Eintracht Frankfurt, Fortuna Düsseldorf and 1860 München were all handed hefty fines. The DFB wanted to implement their no-tolerance approach and soon moved on to ordering matches to be played behind closed doors or without away fans: Dynamo Dresden fans were banned from their away match in Frankfurt and Eintracht Frankfurt fans were later banned from attending their club’s match at Union Berlin. On both occasions, hundreds of “banned” fans gained entry into the respective stadia. When Dynamo were ordered to play a home match against Ingolstadt behind closed doors for poor fan behaviour, they ended up selling over 40,000 “tickets” raising thousands of euros for the club.

But the crowning moment of the season, a scene that will remain etched on every German fan’s memory, was the Bundesliga promotion/relegation playoff match between Hertha BSC and Fortuna Düsseldorf. In the dying seconds of the match, Fortuna fans invaded the pitch thinking that the final whistle had been blown. The scenes were incredible, people digging up parts of the pitch, climbing on the goalposts – before the match had even finished. In the media, the pitch invasion was portrayed as violence. Hertha players were said to have “feared for their lives”, it was a “new generation of violence”. Minor celebrities were lining up to appear on the German equivalents of The Wright Stuff and Loose Women to broadcast their nonsensical, ill-informed opinions about “so-called football fans”, complete with live flare tests using burning mannequins. In one particularly poisonous “talk” show, ultras were referred to as “the Taliban of football”. What almost every single commentator seemed to miss was the fact that what happened that evening in Düsseldorf was exactly what football is supposed to be about – absolute pure, undiluted emotion. The flare-throwing from fans of both teams that night is not something that can be endorsed and was a direct breach of the regulations set down by the pro-pyro movement. But didn’t that evening epitomise why we freeze our arses off on a terrace in Meppen, Aldershot, Stenhousemuir or wherever every Saturday? Fortuna Düsseldorf – a club with a rich history who hadn’t been in the Bundesliga since 1997 – had finally got back to where the fans felt they belong. Let’s not forget, the DFB introduced the playoff system to increase the excitement of the season. It worked.

The thing is, this media reaction and subsequent public outcry has forced the DFB’s hand. They have to be seen to be acting against this new plague of pyro-fuelled violence, otherwise they appear weak. And so we come to this security summit and a code of conduct to be signed by all professional clubs. The talk beforehand had been of the removal of fan privileges, whatever that is supposed to mean, and terracing being banned. What we did see is the maximum stadium ban period being increased from three years to five, reversing the move made in 2007. In the end, the DFB didn’t even invite the Fanprojekte – organisations at each club that take care of fans and fan issues at each club which is partially financed by the DFL and even the local government. One club, 1. FC Union Berlin, chose to not attend the conference. President Dirk Zingler cited the club’s policy of intensive dialogue with fans and the fact that the Code of Conduct had been received a mere 20 hours prior to the actual summit as reasons for staying away. The club has attracted a great deal of praise from fan groups and will have been a source of great embarrassment to the DFB.

Clubs sign the code of conduct – one signature is missing
Source: http://www.textilvergehen.de

When will the DFB learn that this top-down, no-tolerance approach simply does not work?  Harder penalties do not necessarily mean a reduction in “violence”. And what about the figures that show that crime in relation to football matches has been decreasing for years? Even in cases where violence is committed, the draconian punishments simply foster a feeling of injustice. Our justice systems realised long, long ago that simply putting people under lock and key does not address the issues underpinning why people commit crime. Some clubs have implemented schemes where fans with stadium bans can volunteer at the club as a form of community service to reduce the length of their bans, something that the DFB has been praising for months. Instead of showing foresight and a willingness to listen to the people that make the game they govern so successful, they have resorted to treating ultras and pyrotechnics with the same techniques used 20 years ago to fight hooliganism. It’s about time they learned the difference.

Regionalliga Nordost begins to take shape

It may be the fourth tier of German football, but next season Regionalliga Nordost is going to be tremendously attractive for football fans of a certain persuasion (i.e. me). How many other fourth tiers around the world contain a former Cup Winners’ Cup winner (1. FC Magdeburg) AND two other former UEFA Cup finalists (FC Carl-Zeiss Jena and 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig)? The heydays of some of these clubs may have been over 20 years ago, but that doesn’t stop them being huge sides with corresponding fanbases. And the promise of classic matches from the days of the DDR is sure to attract even higher crowds, especially at sides such as Lokomotive Leipzig who, with promotion, will have clambered back up to the level they were at when they went bust eight years ago. An added interest for me is the fact that the reserve side of my club, 1.FC Union Berlin, have just won promotion to the tier the first team were in a mere seven years ago.

The make-up of the division is still dependent on a number of factors, namely undecided promotion battles in the Oberligas and the Regionalliga Nord and the submission of applications for promotion to the Nordostdeutscher Fußball Verband (NOFV). It may be the case that smaller teams such as Fortuna Chemnitz see the step up to the Regionalliga Nordost as too high and consciously decide to remain in the Oberliga.

In principle, the division will consist of 16 teams. Eligible are teams falling under the remit of the NOFV, which conveniently corresponds with the geographical area of the former GDR (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg, Berlin, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia). All NOFV teams currently in the Regionalliga Nord will qualify for the Regionalliga and the remaining places will be filled by teams from the Oberliga Nordost-Nord (roughly covering Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg and Berlin) and the Oberliga Nordost-Süd (covering Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony and Thuringia). Assuming it is Hallescher FC who win promotion to the 3. Liga and not Holstein Kiel, 8 teams will move from the Regionalliga Nord to the Regionalliga Nordost and be joined by FC Carl-Zeiss Jena, who were relegated from the 3. Liga. That leaves 7 spaces for promotion from the Oberligas; with the top three from being promoted directly and the fourth-placed teams playing a two-legged playoff.

This all sounds simple enough, but another regulation is that reserve sides from the 3. Liga cannot be promoted. That rules out three of the top seven in the Oberliga Süd and the current leaders of the Oberliga Nord, Hansa Rostock II, as can be seen below.

NOFV Oberliga Nordost-Nord table
Source: http://www.kicker.de

NOFV Oberliga Nordost-Süd
Source: http://www.kicker.de

Provisional list of clubs, those in bold are already assured of their place.

1. FC Carl-Zeiss Jena Relegated from 3. Liga.
2. RB Leipzig Assuming Hallescher FC pick up the point they require for promotion from this season’s Regionalliga Nord away at ZFC Meuselwitz on Saturday.
3. Berliner AK  
4. VFC Plauen  
5. ZFC Meuselwitz  
6. Hertha BSC II  
7. Germania Halberstadt  
8. FC Energie Cottbus II  
9. 1. FC Magdeburg  
10. FSV Zwickau Champions of the NOFV Oberliga Nordost-Süd
11. 1. FC Union Berlin II Runners-up in the NOFV Oberliga Nordost-Nord.
12. VfB Auerbach Runners-up in the NOFV Oberliga Nordost-Süd
13. Optik Rathenow Need one point from remaining two games
14. 1.FC Lokomotive Leipzig Will seal promotion with victory against Dynamo Dresden II on Sunday. Budissa Bautzen are waiting to pounce should they slip up.
15. TSG Neustrelitz Require 4 points from final two games to secure promotion, otherwise Torgelower Greif could sneak in.
16. Playoff Playoff between teams from the NOFV Oberliga-Süd and Oberliga-Nord for the final place.
TSG Neustrelitz/Torgelower Greif/Berliner FC Viktoria 89 vs. 1.FC Lokomotive Leipzig/Budissa Bautzen/VfB Fortuna Chemnitz