Germany: “We supporters are no longer worth anything”

“The first and second German football leagues will be able to continue playing according to the agreed rules, from the second half of May.” When Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the resumption of the Bundesliga on May 6, but behind closed doors, Germany did not rejoice. Several Länder leaders had expressed their opposition to this takeover and, in general, few politicians were in favor of it, except for the president of Bavaria, the inexorable Markus Söder, for whom “A weekend with football is infinitely more bearable than a weekend without”. But the pressures were so great that the government eventually folded, as it did on so many other subjects – approving a Land-to-Land deconfinement, for example. “The Bundesliga has always been a thermometer of German society, comments Nicole Selmer, editor-in-chief of the trade journal Ballesterer. This eagerness to resume competition is an illustration of a general eagerness in Germany to begin deconfinement, especially as the country feels relatively spared from the virus. And then, if football resumes, it’s all good, right? ”

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But this decision is struggling to pass within a German company which, poll after poll, reaffirms its skepticism vis-a-vis a recovery considered precipitated. Was it really necessary to go to the aid of the German Football League (DFL), in order to relieve all the ceasing business of club presidents who suddenly presented themselves in the media as managers of SMEs on the verge of bankruptcy? The affected mines of the director of the DFL and the boss of Borussia Dortmund, claiming to be able to get back to work quickly, were deemed a bit indecent in a country where partial unemployment has been requested for more than 10 million workers. “Let us think of those who are most affected by this crisis. How are the champions going to be able to pay for their gold watches after they’ve been screwed up by multiple handwashes? ” ironic a satirical program on the public channel NDR, parodying a humanitarian spot with this title: “A heart for football: save the DFL”.

Apart from the Bundesliga, which should recover around 300 million euros from broadcasters, who is delighted with this recovery? Those whom Merkel’s announcement was supposed to satisfy, supporters, say they are very wary. “I don’t know a person who is happy with the recovery. When I heard Merkel announce it, I couldn’t believe my ears, says Inge, supporter of Werder Bremen. The DFL takes us what really matters, the social dimension of football, making matches a caricature. They tell us that we don’t count. Finally, with these spectatorless games, they finally admit what we, the fan groups, have been saying for several years: that they are only there to sell a product. “ David SV supporter of Hamburg speaks of “Sick system” : “We supporters are no longer worth anything to them. Only viewers are now the relevant source of revenue. ”

Economic challenge in the Ruhr area

Many criticize the principle of recovery, but also the way it is practiced. Not only did nobody ask the players for their opinion, but the quarantine policy was not consistent between the teams. When three FC Cologne players test positive, they are quarantined alone; when two players from the Dresden Dynamo test positive, the whole team is. “This situation leads to a total distortion of competition”, says Nicole, supporter of FC Sankt Pauli (Hamburg) who describes herself as “Graphic designer by profession, anti-fascist by conviction and football fan”. She has no desire to watch her club’s game on Sunday against FC Nuremberg. Finally, not on a toll chain. “Given the situation, supporters should not be forced to subscribe to pay TV. For my part, I will probably listen to it on the radio at home, with my family. “

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Those who are about to turn on the television are confused but resigned. Patrick is a supporter of FC Schalke 04, which plays this Saturday against its great rival, Borussia Dortmund. Fan of this club from the Ruhr mining tradition since “That[il peut] think clearly “, he accepts the idea of “Ghost matches” only “so that [son] club can survive. Schalke is not just a club. Behind it is a whole city, many jobs. ” Among the supporters of Schalke, a club established in a particularly deprived postindustrial region – the unemployment rate reached 13.4% in Gelsenkirchen, compared to 5.8% of the national average -, the economic argument is working full. “Of course my heart is bleeding at the thought of not knowing when I will see the friends again, or when I will be able to take them in my arms to celebrate a goal, explains Bianca, who has discounted her subscription to the Schalke north turn. But I am happy for everyone who can keep their job. And even if this derby will not be a normal derby, I’m really looking forward to Saturday. “ “The very existence of the clubs, and therefore the jobs associated with them, is at stake. I’m not talking about champions, but people who work behind the scenes and have to feed their families. “ argues Florian, supporter of Schalke since “Age 3”. Many feel that watching the games will help their club survive. And as the formula David, the fan of Hamburg SV: “Without the resumption of the season, only behemoths like Bayern, Dortmund or RB Leipzig will survive. Many clubs will be in deep debt or will not survive, and the gap between large and small will widen further. ”

“Silent hum”

The fact remains that discontent is more and more visible among supporters. This week, in an open letter, around 370 groups from 150 clubs across Europe called on the national leagues not to resume the championship. For Mark, who supports FC Schalke 04, this letter is an important signal sent by the ultras, who oppose “To the marketing of football for years”.

The conflict between supporters and the German League is not new: in March, a crisis shook the environment, just before the end of the competition. This is the Dietmar Hopp affair, wealthy boss of the Hoffenheim club and overwhelming symbol of the king money with his club which has long marinated in 6e division before going up close to the greats of the Bundesliga thanks to the billionaire’s bags of tickets. Hopp insulting banners have led to exemplary sanctions against ultras. The complex case has mostly sparked a national discussion on the relationship between football, money and the public, a discussion that continues today.

For supporters of anti-fascist clubs, such as Werder Bremen or FC Sankt Pauli, there is no question of associating with certain signatories from the pan-European platform. “I agree with this text, but not with certain fascist supporter groups who signed it”, said Inge. Helen, a SC Freiburg fan since childhood, mentioned another text, signed by 22 German supporter organizations and expressing the same reluctance. “We can only reluctantly accept the continuation of the season as a first aid measure for the long-term revival of football”, she comments, citing the need “A paradigm shift”.

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But the weekend is here, the matches are held. What to do ? “I would like not to watch them, but I’m too addicted, I think”, sighs Inge. Saturday afternoon, Mark will support Schalke in front of his television in the company of a friend, with a curry wurst and a very fresh Pils, in memory of those days when he met his comrades at Charly, the local pub, to discuss stakes of the match by greeting each other with a “Glück auf”, expression meaning “good luck”, but above all the traditional salvation of minors. Nicole, the supporter of FC Sankt Pauli, is about to listen to the match on the radio instead of watching it. She who lives right next to the stadium remembers with melancholy the “Silent buzz that slowly turns into too much background noise when more and more people pass through my neighborhood on their way to the stadium”. And then, later, “The expectations, the tingling in the stomach and, of course, the club anthem, Das Herz von Sankt PauliAll these lost sensations that make a match, these supporters all say, “It’s much more than ninety minutes of play.”

Johanna Luyssen Correspondent in Berlin

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