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When millions in fines go up in smoke: Soccer in the pyro dilemma

Every year, soccer clubs transfer several million euros to the DFB for the misconduct of their fans. This does not act as a deterrent. On the contrary. That is why consequences are now being demanded.

Pyrotechnics - an ongoing issue in German stadiums.
Pyrotechnics - an ongoing issue in German stadiums.

Bundesliga - When millions in fines go up in smoke: Soccer in the pyro dilemma

The successful businessman Martin Kind would have gladly done without this top position. After all, his club Hannover 96 topped the Bundesliga 2 penalty table last season.

The sports court of the German Football Association fined the club a total of over 630,000 euros for fan misconduct - around three and a half percent of the professional budget.

Lower Saxony is not an isolated case. The clubs had to pay over eight million euros in fines last year. A record. And a new waivable record is probably already in sight: only in mid-December, 1. FC Köln was served with a penalty application for almost 600,000 euros. The Rhinelanders did not accept, the outcome is open.

"The DFB, which imposes the penalties, should take note of the fact that they have achieved nothing in recent years. I don't see any point in the punishments," the 79-year-old Kind told the German Press Agency. Eintracht Frankfurt CEO Philipp Reschke already warned last season: "These are dimensions that we have to turn back as quickly as possible." His club had to fork out around 860,000 euros, making it the only club ahead of Hannover.

Fans flare up, DFB counts

Kind proposes that the DFB and the DFL develop a concept for all professional clubs, which the shareholders' meeting of the 36 Bundesliga clubs should decide on. "Important: All Bundesliga clubs should work according to this concept. All options should be discussed, for example personalized seating instead of standing room," said the entrepreneur. In Hanover, they are already working on improved admission controls.

So far, the roles have been clearly divided. The clubs are responsible for ensuring that everything in their stadiums remains pyro-free. The DFB evaluates video recordings of offenses and imposes penalties. The penalty assessment guide in the legal and procedural regulations lists what costs how much - depending on the league. For example, a pyro flare costs a Bundesliga club 1000 euros, a third division team has to pay 350 euros. A fired object already costs 3000 euros in the Bundesliga. The use of laser pointers, banners with unwanted messages (price depends on size), intrusion onto the pitch, game interruptions - almost every incident can be found there.

The clubs can use some of the money for their own preventive measures. In addition, the fines can be passed on to the perpetrators if they can be identified. The substantial sum that ends up in the DFB's account is passed on by the association to its foundations.

Jena set a precedent

Cologne has announced that it will take legal action against the amount of the criminal complaint. A verdict in the ongoing proceedings is not expected until January at the earliest. Managing Director Christian Keller had described association penalties as "far removed from the reality of German soccer and fan culture" and the club accused the DFB of "assessing the incidents without reflection, partially applying a standardized penalty guideline", which it considers to be wrong. The DFB pointed out that the guidelines were once drawn up at the request of the clubs so that penalties would be as comparable and transparent as possible.

In 2018, fourth division club Carl Zeiss Jena had no sympathy at all for the clubs being held accountable for the fans' misconduct and went all the way to Karlsruhe. There, however, the Federal Constitutional Court said in 2023 that it would not deal with a lawsuit against collective punishment. The Federal Court of Justice had previously dismissed the Thuringians' lawsuit. Reasoning: The sanctions were not penalties, but preventative levies.

Fireworks in the stadium not a taboo

So legally speaking, the DFB is on the safe side. But something has to change. After all, penalties have multiplied since the coronavirus pandemic. In the 2018/19 season, it was still around 3.3 million euros. Last season, it was around four million euros in the Bundesliga, 3.1 million in the lower leagues and around one million in the third division. "The ratio has become unbalanced," said Frankfurt's Reschke. There has been a "pyrotechnical paradigm shift" since the coronavirus, with fireworks no longer a taboo at home stadiums.

A solution? Not in sight. Kind, an opponent of pyrotechnics, is even open to controlled burning. At the moment, however, he sees no consensus with the fans. "The supporters in the corners just seem to enjoy it because it's not legal," said Kind. After last season's inglorious season, the club announced that it would incorporate the fines imposed by the association into ticket prices.

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