Football, A Different Way: German Fan Activism

Going to a match in England is very different
to how it was 30 years ago. In some ways, that’s a good thing. Ever since the Taylor
Report and the dawn of the Premier League, stadiums have got better, safer and less violent.
Despite recent flare ups, overt racism, sexism and homophobia are less overt than they used
to be. Women now attend the game in greater numbers than before and English football generally
has a much more family-friendly vibe about it. If you can afford it that is. Because
the price of that change has been high. Literally. Ticket prices have rocketed, stadiums are
now all seater which have impacted on the atmosphere, the demographic of football fans
in England has got older with each passing year as young people are priced out of the
game. Football fans are policed as if each one might be a terrorist threat, alcohol is
so tightly controlled that you can’t drink a pint within eyesight of the pitch and pretty
much anyone can buy or sell a football club and do pretty much what they want regardless
of what the supporters think. The future of football as an entertainment product cut loose
from its working class, community roots is all but assured. Right? Well, not neccesarily. Lessons can be learned
from Germany. It’s become something a cliché to look at club’s in Germany’s Bundesliga
and extol the virtues of their much more laid back approach towards the supporters that
fill their stadiums. Stories of English fans flying to Dortmund to stand in the Yellow
Wall, and still spending less money than a trip to see their local English club, have
proliferated for years. German football has low ticket prices – a
standing ticket at Borussia Dortmund’s South Stand costs 16 euro and 70 cents – safe
standing, incredible atmospheres created by a young and vibrant crowd not priced out of
the game and whom, by and large, have a strong voice within their clubs. Beer can be drunk
from you seat. Smoking is allowed in most grounds too. But this doesn’t happen just
because German clubs want it that way. It happens because of German football’s unique
ownership structure, the so called 50+1 model, but more importantly because of the fans.
Supporter’s are listened to in Germany and supporter activism, organised within supporters
clubs and ultra groups, have fought for those rights and continue to fight the commercialisation
of the game. In that respect, German supporter activism is perhaps unique in world football,
not because of the noise that the supporters can make when they are not happy, but because
of the success they have had in achieving real results. The reason why supporters have more say than
in England can be found in German football’s reluctance to professionalise. In England
football club’s were always considered businesses almost from the start. At the end of the 19th
century clubs took advantage of the new Limited Liability Act to borrow money and build stadiums
of their own. But in Germany, clubs were membership association whose stadiums were more often
than not built and owned by the local municipality. Until the 1960s German football remained a
largely amateur sport where regional leagues dominated. But in 1963 the German football
association voted to create its first nationwide professional league, the Bundesliga. Membership
associations ran these clubs with a few notable exceptions, namely Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg,
which had been set up and funded by the Bayer pharmaceutical company and VW for their workers.
But in 1998 German football decided to allow outside investors into the game for the first
time. The 50 plus one rule limited the potential ownership, and control, by outside investors
effectively giving the membership final say. So whilst ticket prices were rocketing along
with TV revenue in England, German clubs were constrained in their commercial activities
and the game remained much more fan friendly. And this activism can be seen in three main
areas. The preservation of the 50+1 rule is seen as key to ensuring that football is organised
for the supporters. But there has been some opposition to the rule, mainly from the big
clubs in Germany. Teams like Bayern Munich fear falling behind financially to European
clubs bought by plutocrats and princes with unlimited funds. Last year Bayern’s chairman
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge called for its abolition: “We are the last of the big five leagues
in Europe to keep out investors,” he said. But the biggest critic has been Martin Kind,
a hearing aid magnate who has invested for years in Hannover 96. For the past decade
he has turned to the courts, unsuccessfully, to try and take over the club fully. He claims
that 50+1 entrenches a wealthy elite that can never be challenged. “We should bury
50+1 and develop new regulations,” Kind has said. The calls to end 50+1 intensify
when Bayern dominate the league as they did last season. A vote was planned to be held
in April where it was thought Germany’s clubs would vote to change the rule. But German
fans sprung into action. Pro 50+1 banners and tifos appeared in the terraces during
games, showing supporters’ opposition to the move. But that wasn’t enough. One fan group
at SC Freiburg, combining with supporter groups from Hannover, deeply unhappy with what Kind
was planning to do, announced a petition. Which seems quite mild, but it provoked an
outpouring of support. 3000 membership organisations, representing hundreds of thousands of fans,
signed up in support of 50+1. Just before the vote was due to take place in Frankfurt,
fans from Freiburg and Hannover unrolled the metres long petition next to the hall where
the vote would take place. Each club chairman had to walk past it. The vote was defeated,
with the CEO of Borussia Dortmund conceding that he could only vote against it because
the majority of his 150,000 or so members were against it. So 50+1 stays, for now. And
the supporter groups forced a new transparency in to the voting procedure to boot. But another recent change has been the introduction
of Monday night football. Germany is a vast country and travel to away games can take
a long time. Monday night football made it almost impossible for many hardcore fans to
travel to see their team without taking days off from work. It seemed to be introduced
not for the fans but for the TV companies.. So when it was introduced last season, the
fans revolted. There were, of course, tifos like the famous Garfield “We Hate Mondays”
banner used by Werder Bremen. But also more innovative protests. Borussia Dortmund emptied
its vast Yellow Wall for one game, a boycott of 20,000 people, silencing the stadium. But
Eintracht Frankfurt supporters perhaps engaged in the most famous protest, throwing thousands
of tennis balls on to the pitch before the start of a game. Later they covered one of
the goals in toilet paper too. Eventually the German football association decided they
were more trouble than they were worth. “The DFL can confirm that a decision was made as
early as September to abandon Monday games in the Bundesliga when the next media rights
deal is negotiated,” the German football association announced on their Twitter feed. Boycotts are a common theme, especially when
it comes to RB Leipzig. The club is, effectively, bankrolled by the Red Bull empire, which would
appear to break German ownership rules. But Red Bull got around the 50+1 rule in a cunning
way. RB Leipzig used to be a fifth-division club called SSV Markranstadt but in 2009 Red
Bull bought the club and all its branding and handed over a huge transfer war chest.
They flew up the divisions and managed to satisfy the 50+1 by have a tiny membership
board that cost thousands of euros a year to join. The club was run by a “membership”
organisation in spirit only. In reality it was run by Red Bull employees. With every
new division protests followed. 15 minutes of silence before a game. Away game boycotts.
Stands wearing all black ponchos. Dynamo Dresden fans even threw a severed bulls head on to
the pitch. This season Borussia Dortmund again announced it is boycotting the away game in
Leipzig. The club remain a pariah, which is unlikely to change anytime soon. There are a host of other issues that fans
have protested on, from anti-racism issues to overly strong policing. But the forces
of international commerce are strong. Ultras and supporter groups complain that the commercialisation
they fight against is creeping in through the back door. Yet compared to England, which
has an anaemic reputation for direct action in football, German supporters show that far
more powerful forces can be defeated, or at least held at bay, through solidarity, organisation
and just sheer numbers. 2018 was a good year for German supporter activism. But next year
they will have to do this all over again. Because power and money never sleeps.

100 thoughts on “Football, A Different Way: German Fan Activism

  1. This would explain why the Bundesliga tries to sign players from the US, Japan, and Korea. They can buy their best for cheap or nothing since they're not hot farm leagues and sell them for a mint.

  2. Could you do a video about Safe Standing and the govt reviewing of the all seater policy. Im hearing a decision on whether the policy will change is going to be made sometime this month.

  3. The German Way is a double-edged sword – while it keeps the balance of power and prevents tycoon-owned teams ala Man City and PSG, on the other hand it lags behind the big leagues (La Liga, Premier League and even Serie A) in commercial and broadcasting aspect. Even the French Ligue 1, which in quality is way off the Big 4, is experiencing far greater growth financially and could in theory give the Bundesliga a run for its money. And like many big leagues one team has far greater power compared to others – Bayern.

    What is alarming is that last season only one German team got passed the Group Stage of the Champions League – Bayern. And none of the German teams in Europa League got past the Group Stage and I've excluded Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig who entered UEL via the Champions League GS path. From these two Leipzig got only to the QF where it was stoped dead by Olympique de Marseille while Dortmund was embarrassed by Leipzig's sister team – RB Salzburg in the Round of 16. And thus only 1 German team reached the Final 4 of either UCL or UEL.

    2018-19 is better season for the Bundesliga teams – 3/4 of the teams in UCL got to Last 16, and 2/3 of the UEL teams entered the knockout phase. This is 5 out of 7 teams from Germany in European Club Competitions reaching the knockout phases.

  4. In my opinion, Monday night (or any midweek evening, I suppose) matches are okay, provided the travelling support do not have to travel too great a distance. For instance, A Southampton vs Newcastle United match should not be scheduled for a midweek evening, but Southampton vs a London club isn't so bad. But what do the supporters matter anyway?!!

  5. You guys should do a video on your research process. It goes without saying that your videos are interesting, but the level of detail you uncover, touch on and break down can't be just from Google or someone's memory. I can't be the first person to ask this & I hope I'm not missing something that you've put out previously that goes over this but I figured I'd mention it just in case. Great videos guys & keep up the good work! Cheers from the States.

  6. Said this for decades. Fans are their own worst enemy in this country to the point where its really hard to call them "fans" at all, they are at best mildly interested bystanders.

  7. Quality content, as a Liga MX fan, i never knew about this. I assumed the big European leagues all had investors

  8. From an outsider's perspective, it seems that English football's supporter strength is an emerging phenomenon at the grassroots level. I'm from the USA but I've heard of FC United of Manchester and AFC Wimbledon, and I keep tabs on the former.

  9. I'm off to Germany next month to watch Dortmund vs Leverkusen – It was cheaper to do so than go down to London and watch Chelsea away….

  10. Just a question aren't Real and Barça both more like German clubs in ownership structure? Why do they seem to be more corporately and commercially influenced than? Is it rather expensive to become a member of those clubs? Does that lead to their membership being upper class and thus more commercially connected?

  11. Surely teams like Stuttgart, HSV, Kaiserlautern, Werder Bremen, Schalke, Frankfurt etc would benefit from extra investment from outside to reduce the dominance of Bayern??

  12. I wonder what football would be like in the UK / England if it were run on the German model ??

    Equally, would the England National Football Team have been more successful with this type of League Structure ?

  13. Also they have rules that don't allow clubs to operate on extreme debt/losses, like most, if not all other clubs in the EPL or La Liga do, so that's another plus. The Bundesliga is in a great spot, all their teams need to do is start getting results in Europe (outside of Bayern/Dortmund) and more money will be flowing in. They already broadcast a decent number of games on Fox Sports here in the US.

  14. @Tifo Football, can you guys make a video about the rise of Spanish clubs like Barca, Real and Atletico during late 00s and the relation of it to the unequal distribution of revenues in La Liga? Also the scandals of Platini where he said he feared English teams would dominate Europe. Thanks in advance ?

  15. It would be also very nice you to see you guys Tifo Football doing a video about the Liverpool of the 70s and 80s, talking about the great Bill Shankly, his philosophy, Bob Paisley and the Boot Room and how Liverpool went on to dominate and be the best team in England/Europe.
    A little add-on or separate video could be maybe on English brillance in the 80s where English teams and great managers like Paisley, Toshack, Busby etc won the European Cup 7 straight years.

  16. This video is BS. In Germany they are very conservative about money which is not a bad thing. But they are fearful of money and don't care about true club or squad development. They are lazy as hell as long as their shi!!y clubs can remain "untainted" by the evils of cash. Clubs can't and won't be able to compete with Bayern or international rivals for that matter. So what good is it if your club is owned by the fans or they have a say if it doesn't lead to national or international success? Money alone won't make a good team. But RB Leipzig is the perfect example of how strong finances and good club planning can create something very special. German fans might hate the team but they are a joy to watch. Both elements are not mutually exclusive and can coexist. Other than ticket pricing and monday matches having fans doesn't have any real advantages. So all of these organizations only lead to fans being able to watch their teams lose while paying cheap tickets… or in the case of Bayern, leads to fans stupidly getting a nice kit with blue shorts banned JUST BECAUSE. Dude… they had blue shorts plenty of times before and no one complained. German fans are bi!tchy AF.

  17. used to be a BPL fan, but Bundesliga won me over easily a few years back. while clubs are still businesses, they have plenty of club aspects about them and feel German and real. also, aside from Bayern it's actually very competetive and honestly, harder to predict imo than BPL in terms of top 6 at least.

  18. It's a shame really…you look at all the talent that's flowed from the BL to the EPL over the last few years: de Bruyne, Firmino, soon to be Pulisic, Keita, Sane…you could go on.

    There has to be a way to change the system to allow for more money to flow in, while keeping 50+1 mostly intact.

  19. We shouldn't really be glorifying throwing thousands of tennis balls or a bull's head onto the pitch… what was security doing to even allow that to happen in the first place???

  20. Amazing video, great content. Keep up the good work.
    P.S.: Will you do any of those traveling game vlogs you did in the past?

  21. Can you make a video about the meteoric rise of Robin Jansson? He was playing for a team from the middle of nowhere in the lower tiers of Swedish football 12 months ago, and has now earned a call up to the Swedish national team after his performances during AIK’s title win. AIK, through injuries, found themselves lacking defenders at the start of the season and had played Robin Jansson’s team in the cup, and signed him, and he scored the winner in the last game of the season that won them the league.

  22. No wonder why German football is so successful with 4 world cups and 3 Euros…..The most successful team in Europe and one of the very best in world football surprassing many great football teams that's why I'm a fan of German football since decades now….❤

  23. "Germany is a vast country"

    Haven't heard that said in english for…80 or so years probably ^^
    You only ever get that in dutch or a balkan language nowadays

  24. Although 50+1 is great for the fans, it’s really damaging the quality of the clubs on the pitch. When a foreign club offers a German club a lot of money for a player, they can’t help but take the money cause they can’t get much anywhere else. So all these clubs that could be serious European contenders end up selling their best players and fail in Europe. The regulations involving 50+1 need to be changed to help Bundesliga clubs contend in Europe, while preserving stuff like ticket prices and what have you

  25. I see England and Germany as extremes of each model. England is overt commercialization that takes fans out of the game while Germany to an extent (if not for the academies overhauled by DFB) is stuck in a semi-pro and semi-amateur level. They produce decent players but are seldom able to retain them because of poor business practices at the clubs as they have no incentives to improve upon.

  26. 642 kilometers is not vast lol when you live in Canada. I live in Calgary a fairly large city and the closest city to us is 300 km away. Man that is crazy to me to think Germany is only that wide t it's furthest

  27. it's because pro sports is a replacement for nationalism and pride in yourself. Germans are brainwashed by jews into hating themselves. Being a supporter is one of the few things germans are allowed to do before they are all raped and killed by islam. It's so sad.

  28. Would be interesting if you discussed the topic of why all coaches are old players, y cant a coach just be a good tactisian?

  29. Arsenal fan tv and the Arsenal sagar; involving the fans wanting Arsene Wenger to leave FOR MANY YEARS proved to me that fan solidarity will never happen it England.
    How can one want change and still go to the games? Change comes with sacrifice.
    These supporters started to sound like Zimbabweans wanting Mugabe out, but still voting for ZANU PF because they are “Loyal” to the party. It’s all comical really. ?

  30. Good explained and I hope for the next 10-20 years the Bundesliga is the same as today because I dont want it to be like in England especially for the newcoming generation. I see young people enter the stands for their first time and its just unique, the atmosphere in some Bundesliga stadiums are incredible especially when it comes to Derby or just a big match. For me as an Eintracht Frankfurt supporter, this means everything. Our next monday match is at Düsseldorf in march and I dont think that i can make it although Düsseldorf is a great place for an away match especially because of the powerful and emotional supporters on both sides.

  31. "Germany is a vast country, and travel to away games can take a long time." Oh Europe, you're so quaint. However, an all round great video. I loved the £3,500.99 ticket at Home Park for a match against Fleetwood.

  32. No more racism in german football but where are the non white coaches etc etc? Show it by action not by banners

  33. Tbh, the only german Club that benefits from the 50+1 Rule is Bayern Munich. They are one of the 5 richest Football Clubs and one of the richest Clubs in all Sports worldwide even with the 50+1 Rule in Germany. They can buy a Neymar or CR7 or whoever they want just like PSG, Real Madrid or the english Clubs are doing because just a tiny bit of their 500+ Million € Income every Year comes from Ticket Sales and the TV Deal in Germany. And if that Money isnt enough to buy a Superstar, they can just sell a couple Percent of their Shares to their current Shareholders and longtime Partners Adidas, Audi, german Telekom and Allianz.
    They are so far ahead of every other Club in the Bundesliga now and there is no Way to catch up for other Clubs if they arendt allowed to sell more than 49% to a new Owner. No one will spend hundreds of Millions in Infrastructure, Transfer Fees and Salarys over a couple Years to establish a Club as a Contender to Bayern Munich if they arendt allowed to take Control over what happens to the Money.

    My Club Eintracht Frankfurt happily announced that they had more than 150 Million Income and spend over 40 Million in Salarys the last Season. 40 Million isnt even enough to pay the Salarys of Manuel Neuer and Bayerns Defense. Not talking about the over 600 Million Euro Income Bayern Munich had last Season.
    How do we have to compete against a Club that earns 4 times more per Year and has almost infinite Ressources do to their Shareholders and Partners if they wanna buy Players?

    The only Chance to catch up for a while is if Bayern Munich is getting lazy like they did a couple Years ago when Dortmund won the Title. They spend a shitload of Money in new Players after that "Accident", also buying some of Dortmunds best Players, and were back to undisputed League Leader in an Instant.
    Now they are spending just over 200 Millions in new Players like its nothing after they struggled this Season and Dortmund is catching up again.

  34. The reason that you can't smoke in English stadiums is the prominent feature of wood in either the structure of designs of the stands. Notably, Margaret Thatcher's arguable only positive action was banning smoking as a result of the valley parade fire

  35. It’s actually a two sided coin. We all like that our beloved Bundesliga remains Supporter Friendly but we seem to fall back compared to other leagues. We can’t afford a 50 Million Transfer of a mediocre player nor even a good player. And many talents that have their breakout here, leave eventually to go to England or Spain etc. Well at least I can afford a ticket for the game

  36. People think England is bad, Italy is so fucking trashy when it comes to fans because of this kind stuff.. their passion is unmatched, but they really lack respect and elegance.

  37. Germany is a vast country? Australia asks you to hold it's beer, clearly someone hasn't told you about the Distance Derby.

  38. holy shit, only by watching tifo have I seen how corrupt and evil football can be behind the scenes, but seeing germany's approach is amazing

  39. I had to chuckle at 2:43: "generisch" is a correct translation of generic, but it would sound very odd if used in an example like this, in German we would rather say "FC Durchschnitt" or FC average, to create an example.

  40. How the hell is this channel not getting more subscriptions. What a brilliant and intelligent presentation, the graphics make a lot of the complicated and slightly complicated issues in the presentation very accessible

  41. My club in Norway is adding standing sections in its new stadium aswell, will hopefully make more people join, right now the supporter group is small, despite being right next to the capital (highly populated to be a small country)

  42. Things to introduce for the English game:
    £20 ticket price cap.

    Longer deadline for fixture changes.

    Safe standing.

    Being allowed to smoke and drink in the stadium.

    No Saturday 19:45, No Thursday night football or 12:00 kickoffs.

    Limit for the amount of midweek games one team can have in a season in the league.

    Stop players from grabbing the ball with their hands when they go down before the referee blows his whistle.

    Enforce the 6 second goalkeeper rule.

    Harsher diving punishments.

    Revision of the handball rule because it’s getting out of hand how loosely the handball rule is used.

    FA cup semi final not at Wembley.

    English football team to go around the country not just Wembley.

  43. Couldn't trust the Nigels with all that choice and responsibility, they'd fuck it up. They choose Brexit after all! Us Jocks certainly couldn't be trusted with ?. That would be carnage.

  44. "Because power and money never sleeps" – another brilliant video guys. Keep up the good work. Cheers from Portugal

  45. 50+1 works for 2 clubs. For all the rest, it fails. None of them will amount to anything internationally, none will win any hardware and the whole league will become less and less relevant, including BM.

  46. I lived in London for many years, became a Tottenham fan in my period there I went to the stadium 3 or 4 times. In Germany I was at a Bundesliga game on my first weekend and I lost count how many times I went to a game

  47. Would it be possible to make a video about Vfl Wolfsburg?

    They are owned by a subsidiary that is wholly owned by Volkswagen Group, but they haven't faced, at least to my knowledge, the animosity that has been directed towards Red Bull Leipzig. And if possible, could you also explain how come Volkswagen hasn't poured more money into the football team, like Red Bull has done with their football teams? I mean, Volkswagen is bigger and richer then Red Bull and they could turn Vfl Wolfsburg into a powerful team, if they wanted to; although that might be the reason why they haven't faced the animosity that Red Bull Leipzig has faced.

    And as always, great content! Keep up the good work.

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