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What to do about the Problem Fans?

What side of the fence are you on?

What side of the fence are you on?

Consequences after the Riots in Hamburg: DFB President Zwanziger is considering Travel Bans on Fans, Rostock is not ruling out Court Actions against the instigators. The Police Union is warning that there may be fatalities soon and is demanding games in empty stadiums.

Hamburg – The physical damage caused in the Riots surrounding the 2nd Division game between FC St. Pauli and Hansa Rostock (3:2) from last Friday has already disappeared, but the psychological damage done to German Soccer will remain for some time. DFB President Theo Zwanziger is considering a general Travel Ban on Problem fans. He said to “Bild am Sonntag”: “If it helps, then we have to do it.” The Gewerkschaft der Polizei (GdP = Police Union) went even further. GdP Chairman Konrad Freiberg said after the Street fighting in Hamburg about Matches without Spectators: “As extreme as it sounds it has to remain a possibility, with the increase of violent activities surrounding Soccer recently, it is just a matter of time before we see fatalities.”

The DFB is going to discuss the incidents in Hamburg later this week, Hansa Rostock however is not waiting and has already issued the first consequences: Four people have already received a three year Stadium ban for all of Germany, and the Club has reserved the right that if it receives a Fine from the DFB that it will take the guilty individuals to court to recoup damages. According to Rostock’s Board Chairman Dirk Grabow the actions of some of the Fans were “absolutely unacceptable”. As a “Repeat Offender”, the Club could see serious sanctions from the DFB, to include playing in an empty Stadium. St. Pauli is also looking at a minimum of a monetary fine, after approximately 1000 St. Pauli Fans and other individuals participated in the Street Fighting with the Police. Five Officers, two Fans and a bystander were injured.

The incident has started the discussions about how to prevent Fan Violence once again. The Police think that a Travel Ban is a viable option. “It makes sense not to let Violent Fans travel to the matches” said GdP Chairman Freiberg. The Police tried a limited version of this ahead of the match by enacting Stadium Bans on 11 Rostock Group Leaders and 5 St. Pauli Fans. The Koordinationsstelle Fanprojekt (Kos = Coordination office for Fan Project) however stated that a Travel Ban “would not do anything” according to the Frankfurt Kos Leader Michael Gabriel. Gabriel acknowledged that there has been “an increase of violent incidents in Soccer” but added “It is definitely not only an East German Problem.” Another item brought into the discussion has been criticism of the DFL for setting the date of the match. In the future the risk matches should be scheduled on “an unattractive travel day” according to Hamburg’s Police Spokesman Ralf Meyer – for example Sunday or Monday. He added “Friday Evening is to much an attractive day to have a match like this.” The Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL = German Soccer League) coordinates the selection of the match days for the 2nd Division with the Zentralen Informationsstelle Sporteinsätze (Zis = Central Information Office for Sporting Events) of the Police in Düsseldorf. “We coordinate all scheduling for matches with the Zis and did it in this case as well” said DFL Managing Director Holger Hieronymus.

The DFB Safety Coordinator Helmut Spahn sat down for an Interview where he gives his opinion on the statements by the Police Union (GdP)

Q: There has been quite the discussion after the incidents surrounding the St. Pauli vs. Rostock match. How do you view the Coordination with the Police before the game especially in regards to the date of the match?

Helmut Spahn: There was almost nothing that could be improved upon. The Coordination between the teams and the Police was at a perfect level, and that includes the date picked for the match. Contrary to the current criticism, the Zentrale Informationsstelle für Sporteinsätze (ZIS) not only concurred with the date chosen but recommended Friday or Monday to the DFL for this match.

Q: Once again there is a demand that games should be played behind closed doors. As Security Coordinator for the DFB, what is your position on that?

Spahn: We have to make that a possibility, but only as a matter of last resort. You have to remember that the problems do not entirely go away if the match is played without spectators, most of the altercations happen outside the Stadium instead of in the Stadium. The Fans of the Home Team are already in their City and the Away Fans could still come to town. In this case, various observers reported to me that after the game the fighting was mainly with Left Autonomous individuals and the Police and the fighting before the game was with Rostock Supporters and the Police. So we have to see if it would even make sense to exclude the Public if the resulting stretching of resources for the Police would increase the danger to both the Public and the Police forces.

Q: What possibilities are there to prevent this sort of thing for future Risk Matches ahead of time? For example, is it legal to tell known Problem Fans they cannot travel?

Spahn: That is already being attempted. For this to really work the Police laws and regulations have to be the same and applied uniformly, currently each State has different rules and procedures. Something like this can only be successful if all the participants coordinate effectively.

Q: What is your view on the general developments of Violence in the Stadiums? Is there any truth to the comments that there is an increase in incidents to include the 2nd and 3rd Divisions?

Spahn: The statements that say the movement to violence is increasing in the lower Divisions are false. Our data alone indicates that is not correct. I honestly view these comments as having a Stammtischniveau (literally translates to Stammtisch = a reserved table usually found in bars, Niveau = French word meaning level, practical usage in English would approximate hearsay without facts). The numbers indicate the opposite of that.

Q: The GdP is depicting Horror Scenarios that these incidents will only grow in number and size. Do you share these concerns?

Spahn: I am concerned how some of these incidents are moving outside the Stadium grounds. We are only responsible for the safety and smooth operations inside the Stadiums. The problem that we had on Friday was the use of Pyrotechnics in the Stadium. Our strong prohibitions in that regard govern from the Bundesliga down to the 4th Division.

Q: How do you respond to the demand that the Clubs must improve their work with the Fans? What are the DFB and the DFL doing in that regard?

Spahn: That demand is hard to top in its polemic! Every Club from the Bundesliga to the 4th Division has a Fan Coordinator, and there are an additional 44 Fanprojekte doing social education with Fans. There is not much to improve there. The DFB and the DFL is contributing over two Million Euro’s for a third of the total cost, the rest of the money is contributed from the German States and Communities.

Q: What is your response to the statement made by the Chairman of the GdP, Konrad Freiberg that it is just a matter of time before we see fatalities around Soccer matches?

Spahn: I don’t want to call it mental arson, but it is not far removed from that. These comments are not to be taken serious. All we can reiterate is: We don’t want to talk away problems, but we can only solve problems when Politics and Sports in this case the Police and Soccer, work together to solve them instead of trying to blame each other. If the GdP wants to go into a different direction they might find themselves isolated in a Cul de sac.

I really had hoped to get into something a bit more upbeat involving Fan activities after the last few weeks have seen more negative things than positive ones, but these incidents cannot be ignored especially if they may lead to changes in the way the Fans are treated. The sad truth is that the actions of a few extremists are going to impact everyone and the Fans have to step up and police themselves.

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