German football in crisis after offending fan protests

DM Monitoring

BERLIN: German football is being hit by a wave of ultra-fans protests against commercialization.
During the Bundesliga duel between Hoffenheim and Bayern Munich, insulting chants triggered one of the most bizarre reactions in the history of football. The two teams passed the ball around for 13 minutes, while some players gathered in the middle of the pitch chatting with each other after the competition was interrupted twice for an offensive banner in the crowd.
German national keeper, Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer, is said to have demanded the action to show the players disapproval. “We need to stand up against all form of insults in football,” Neuer said.
In several arenas such as Dortmund, Cologne and Hoffenheim, supporters launched offensive attacks on Hoffenheim investor Dietmar Hopp. Fans claim the protests aren’t exclusively aimed at Hopp, but to attract widespread attention on the topic of increasing commercialization.
Expressing justiciable insults in several arenas supporters have crossed borders which won’t be tolerated by German association president Fitz Keller. German football has reached its lowest point, Keller said. “For too long we have tolerated insults, racial and homophobia outbreaks,” the official commented.
This weekend’s incidences represent a turning point in German football, Keller stressed.
Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge announced the club would use all legal measures to bring the offenders to justice.
Bayern higher-ups such as Rummenigge and the club’s designated chairman, former German international Oliver Kahn, went down on the pitch to stand beside Hopp. At the same time, the majority of the crowd applauded chanting the investor’s name.
Hopp is one of the most divisive protagonists in German football, having bankrolled Hoffenheim up from the fifth tier to the Bundesliga between 2000 and 2008. The co-founder of the software group SAP is said to have invested over 250 million euros in the club.
Aside from his engagement in football, the 79-year-old is known for considerable investments in several social, science and medical projects. Hopp is said to have invested a high multi-million sum in several projects, including projects for disadvantaged children.
Five years ago, the patron was allowed to purchase a majority of the club’s shares, which stands for one of three exceptions to the 50+1 rule, which means members must own more than half the shares in their club. Other than Germany, countries like Britain, France, and Italy have opened doors for outside investors.
A minority of German fans claim to protect football heritage, but neglect inevitable modern developments.
RB Leipzig, bankrolled by Austrian billionaire and soft-drink manufacturer Dietrich Mateschitz, has been subject to substantial fan protests. Two other German clubs, Bayer Leverkusen and VfL Wolfsburg, are owned by internationally-operated companies such as the pharmaceutical group Bayer Leverkusen and the car manufacturer Volkswagen.
Bayern’s fans are not the first to protest. Last weekend’s game between Hoffenheim and Moenchengladbach was stopped for 10 minutes after Moenchengladbach fans displayed a banner with Hopp’s face in a crosshair.
Earlier this month, Borussia Dortmund fans were banned from away games against Hoffenheim for the next two seasons after insulting Hopp over several years, followed by several court cases.
Fans of so-called traditional clubs have been protesting against newly formed sides and the influence of investors for many years. The debate is said to continue and could endanger German football’s development.
Bayern ultras claim to have acted in solidarity with other supporter groups. Dortmund fans were chanting similar offenses in their game against Freiburg. That game, too, was briefly stopped.