Clocking in at over 4,000 words nobody can accuse FC Union Berlin of a knee-jerk reaction in relation to the DFB ‘security summit’. Today, Union published a response to the summit, and through the well argued document, set out their reasoning for non-compliance with the DFB.
I tweeted a few of my favourite comments earlier today when I scanned the document.
I think it is important to know the full story. I previously blogged about it here but I was offering a view on why English fans in particular are drawn to Union. For a much deeper analysis from someone who knows much more about German football do take the time to read this blog piece by @valedave.
It was telling that Union declared on their website today that after "intensiver Diskussionen" with fan groups they had drafted this document. The fans should be at the heart of every football club. At Union the fans are largely from the local community and Union actively seek out their opinions. That is opposed to your 'fans' being a largely disparate group spread across the world and referred to as a 'market'.
I'll consider all of my tweets and the points they raise in the chronological order I made them. So, starting from the bottom...
Firstly, it's funny. Secondly, what a superb way to make a serious point and take a side-swipe at an acceptable part of German 'culture' that most people are aware of. The Oktoberfest point is clever in many ways. Primarily Oktoberfest is a tourist attraction. If you're unaware of what it is I suggest you read wikipedia. It's clearly a cash cow with drink prices increasing annually. In the last decade the average price of beer has increased by 43%. Oktoberfest is just a bit of fun though. Attending football matches though is dangerous and full of louts. The media (more of them later) lap it up and print pictures of drunk youths and scantily clad woman. Union point out, that compared to the Bundesliga, the world's largest fair is akin to a civil war zone. I've never been so can't comment. My friends have and agree it is carnage. All I can say is that fans at Union drink responsibly and it's much better value.
The fan mile
The 'fan mile' comment from Union was at first glance slightly perplexing, but when you look deeper, extremely shrewd. The 'fan mile' is always heralded by the media as a great success but Union expose the myth by noting that 99 arrests were made when Germany played Italy in Euro 2012. Has a Bundesliga game ever featured 99 arrests I wonder?
The demonisation of football fans in most countries is due to the media. I'll not waste time in covering well known examples. Suffice to say, Union make this point very well throughout their document. Ultras as the Taliban is so absurd it makes a mockery of the modern day media outlets that publish such rubbish. Again, I can only speak from experience but I have never witnessed any trouble at Union. Strangely, it is a question that I am often asked on Twitter and via my blog - I wonder why...
Social responsibility, a buzzword in the corporate world, is used often by Union throughout the lengthy submission. Ridding grounds of a standing area has had a devastating effect on the demographic of football matches in the UK. Whatever your views on stadiums and standing it is not right that local communities are priced out of watching live football. It's cheaper to watch Union than non-league football at Gateshead in the north-east of England. A damning indictment on the English game.
Union are a community club and rarely a week passes without a news story on the club website about an initiative, players attending a fan association or a youth camp. You get the picture and so do they. They know the community is their lifeblood. They invest time and money in building an association that is more than just a football team that plays 34 league fixtures a season.
The Taylor Report
All-seater stadiums are seen as the panacea by the DFB. The DFB believe that with the help of the Goddess of Universal Remedy they can cure German football of its image problems (and create lots of money). They appear blind to the fact that football changed immeasurably for fans after the introduction of all-seater stadiums in the UK. Union, in standing up to the DFB are standing up for the civil rights of every fan in Germany. Long may standing continue as it is one of the best aspects when attending a Union game. I can't imagine sitting at Union and nor can most people I speak with.
One of the main issues Union had with the DFB/DFL concerned banning orders. This is covered in the document but I'm not blessed with sufficient German skills to objectively comment. Luckily St Pauli have a Yorkshire Fan Club and have produced a great blog piece you can view here. David of Vale fame has also produced a very interesting and detailed blog piece here. A must read.
unsre Liebe, unsre Mannschaft, unser Stolz, unser Verein
I'm proud to have a season ticket at Union. Union have a phrase and I feel it is apt to explain it for those who are not aware of what UNVEU stands for. It means "und niemals vergessen eisern union". Nobody should ever forget 'Iron' Union for their courage in being the only club to stand up to the DFB with such eloquence. I only wish I understood every word!