Compliance is not what we need…
Events surrounding the recent play off game against Bradford reminded me of two incidents in the 2. Bundesliga in Germany this year. One was the Eisern Union match versus Eintracht Frankfurt in Berlin. The German FA had banned all Frankfurt fans from this game because of an enthusiastic pyrotechnical display on their part at a previous away match against Düsseldorf.
This is becoming a recurrent theme in German football. All fans of a given club are being collectively punished because of the actions of a number of individuals. These measures are increasingly pissing fans off, leading to growing resistance.
In Berlin, Union fans bought a large number of tickets which were then passed on to Frankfurt fans who travelled to Berlin en masse despite being banned. Around 1000 Frankfurt fans ended up being in the ground, subsequently storming the away end they were being barred from. This was supported by Union fans singing „the wall must go“, a reference to Union being a club mainly supported by oppositionists to the GDR regime in east Germany. In the end, the wall went down because Union officials simply opened the gates to the away end. 1000 Frankfurt fans gleefully sang „we all got banning orders“. Meanwhile, in the Union end, a massive banner reading „fick dich DFB“ (fuck you German FA) was unfurled. All of this was well visible on the telly, chants of „football mafia DFB“ could be heard throughout the game. The collective act of solidarity forced the football authorities to promise a rethink of their approach of collective punishment of football fans.
In Hamburg, Hansa Rostock was meant to play an away match at St Pauli. Here, the police banned all away fans from turning up. This is a precedent in Germany with potentially far reaching consequences not only for football fans but for political activists too. (For example German authorities have banned a weekend of protests against austerity measures in Europe due to take place in Frankfurt from 16th to 19th of May.) Both clubs protested about this but to no avail. The police justified their actions with the security risk for the public on the match day. Encounters between St Pauli and Hansa Rostock are always considered to be a high security match. Both sets of fans hate each other and there are always a number of violent incidents on the day.
But still, this is no reason for banning every single Hansa Rostock fan from turning up on the day. They were not taking it lying down either and decided to organise a demonstration through the Hamburg districts of Altona and St Pauli. From a policing point of view, this was a disaster. The very same fans they wanted to get rid of now threatened to roam through the streets of Hamburg with no match to contain them for 90 minutes. Cue hysterical prophecies in the tabloid press about the mass slaughter bound to occur on the day. In the end, the Rostock demonstration was entirely peaceful. The protested, made their point, listened to the match on the radio on a public square in Hamburg and went home. At the same time, the St Pauli Ultras boycotted their own match, also in protest. They too followed the match on the radio. There were further protests inside the ground. More details about how the day went can be found here:
Quite a number of FC fans know by now that „ultra“ is currently the dominant trend among German football supporters. However this word does not just describe an organised way of organising support during a football match, drawing banners or using loads of flares. It also describes a certain ideology, an instinctive dislike for „doing as you are told“, a love for creative energy and freedom of movement. This desire was displayed in the two examples above. The same desire is needed at FC.
The instinctive reaction of many FC fans when something happens they don’t like is to call for a „boycott“. I always found this idea as such way too passive. Simply to stay away when the police boss you around doesn’t really always cut it. Sometimes other measures are called for. Bradford police piled on the pressure to move the match to Sunday 2pm because of „security concerns“. One response could have been to turn up en masse in Bradford that day. Imagine 3000 FC fans listening to the play off final on the radio somewhere on a public place in Bradford with the police panicking about how they are going to deal with this situation.
The authorities want to cow us as they ram through their austerity measures. Football, as has always been the way, is a test laboratory for them to figure out how to achieve „compliance“. Compliance is the last thing we need right now.