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Bundesliga: DFL calls for clarity and dialogue after fan protests and interruptions

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The governing body of the Bundesliga takes position with respect to the fan protests and interruptions that rocked the latest Bundesliga matchday and the DFB-Pokal.

FBL-GER-CUP-SCHALKE-BAYERN MUNICH Photo by SASCHA SCHUERMANN/AFP via Getty Images

The DFL, the governing body of the 1. and 2. Bundesliga, has issued a statement concerning the controversial fan protests and official response to them witnessed in the past few days. Most notably in Sinsheim, Bayern Munich’s away game against TSG Hoffenheim was interrupted twice after Bayern ultras displayed banners branding Hoffenheim owner Dietmar Hopp a Hurensohn (“son of a bitch,” “whore’s son”).

In its statement, the DFL attempts to steer a middle course between absolute freedom of opinion and demonstrations that could be interpreted as incitements to violence. They write,

Freedom of opinion, which includes protest, is not up for debate. German soccer stands out for its great diversity; that neither should nor may change. But it is equally clear that people do not belong in crosshairs on banners. Defamation, incitement, and hate — no matter what form they take — are not acceptable.

In response to criticism that the DFL should have taken action much earlier, namely, in the event of racist attacks such as those received by Hertha Berlin’s Jordan Torunarigha in Gelsenkirchen, the DFL accepts the critique but argues that it does not negate their action now:

It is absolutely legitimate to ask why this attitude was not manifested so clearly earlier. This question should not, however, be a reason not to follow this path consistently now.

They called for a “precise definition” of the “Three-Step Plan” with respect to its “interpretation, implementation, and potential consequences.” The reasoning behind that is fairly obvious:

Interruptions in games must not become the rule; games must be decided on the pitch.

The DFL also responded in particular to the ultras’ argument that the DFB had “broken its word” about imposing collective punishments. They state,

There neither was nor is any broad reintroduction of collective punishments. The specific case under discussion concerned a legally valid punishment of probation handed down by the sports tribunal in November 2018, which was public knowledge. After repeated incidents, the probation was rescinded and the exclusion [of all BVB fans] thus took effect.

Be that as it may, the DFL concluded by issuing a call for further dialogue between itself, the DFB, the clubs, and the fans and by “explicitly recognizing the many positive contributions of numerous fan groups for the benefit of our soccer culture.”