DFL saga rumbles on as German clubs hit with “incomprehensible” fines for recent fan protests

Plans for private investment in Bundesliga were shelved recently after fan protests across Germany but clubs are now facing a financial backlash.

The DFL had proposed plans to sell a stake in its media rights to an outside investor after negotiations were narrowly approved by a majority of club leadership among the top two divisions. 

Fans felt that the proposals threatened the integrity of German football and eventually forced the DFL to climb down after potential private investors started to back away.

From Berlin to Munich, fans disrupted games and vocalised their opposition to the plans. 

Across Germany, the opening 12 minutes of games were greeted by silence in the stands before erupting into unified chants and expletives against DFL, the Governing body.

Fans suspended and delayed games by throwing objects on to pitches, using remote-controlled cars and planes and, in one case, attaching chains and bicycle locks to goalposts.

Five weeks ago, a spokesperson for the DFL executive committee, Hans-Joachim Watzke, said: “In view of current developments, a successful continuation of the process no longer seems possible.”

The fans had won.

However, the protests are now proving costly for many of the fan-owned clubs in Germany.

The DFL has issued fines to numerous clubs.

FC Union Berlin have been issued with a €60,000 fine for delays and protests, including an hour stoppage at home to VFL Wolfsburg.

Bayern Munich received a €40,000 fine, whilst Freiburg, Borussia Dortmund and Paderborn received fines of approximately €30,000.

There are further fines for the likes of Werder Bremen, Greuther Fürth and Holstein Kiel.

Although some clubs are already pushing back.

VfL Osnabrück are appealing a €20k fine for three cases of ‘unsportsmanlike conduct’, arguing that the protests weren’t club-related, but about a “core question of German football itself.”

CEO, Michael Welling stated:

“If peaceful protest and freedom of expression aren’t allowed, then a basic principle is reduced to absurdity.”

“This does not correspond in any way to our understanding of democracy and the law, which is why we have decided to also appeal against the sports court’s ruling.”

This comes soon after FC Köln received a record-breaking fine for fan misconduct following their use of pyrotechnics in their derby against Borussia Monchengladbach in October.

Köln were fined €595,000 for delaying the match which they went on to win 3-1.

Osnabrück are not alone in their frustration and there is widespread “incomprehension” towards the fines with threats of counter-lawsuits from some clubs.

Welling explained:

“This case also clearly shows in many facets that the DFB’s legal and procedural system urgently needs to be revised. We will therefore also consider going to the regular courts if the DFB’s sports jurisdiction should be challenged here after weighing up all the arguments not come to a different verdict than before.”

It was unlikely that the DFL would disregard the protests but it seems that the saga will continue with no clear end in sight.

It will be costly for both sides.

GGFN | Oscar O’Mara 

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