WORDS: CHRISTOPH WAGNER
Football is a money machine, you only have to at the figures produced each year by the top clubs in Europe and the rest of the world. But beyond the limelight of the top flight, the situation is very different, with many clubs under threat. In Germany, a group of supporters are campaigning against this trend…
No Money, No Football
In German football, the financial situation for many clubs below the top two divisions is difficult to say the least, a situation that threatened to reach crisis point during the second half of last season, when some clubs in the Oberliga in Lower Saxony decided not to travel to away games.
The reason? The fines for not turning up were lower than the travel costs for the clubs, which are a heavy burden for clubs in the fifth tier of Germany’s league pyramid.
The campaign was initiated by fans of Göttingen 05 back in June, with the aim of improving attendances. With just over 100,000 inhabitants, Göttingen lies within an hour’s drive of Lower Saxony’s Bundesliga clubs Hannover 96, Eintracht Braunschweig and VfL Wolfsburg, but while top-flight football is certainly a pull for some fans to go elsewhere for their football, the town also has a huge student population, who you might think prefer their football to be more local and affordable.
But herein lies the problem.
The students hardly feature among the crowd at home games of Göttingen 05 – most of them come for the duration of their studies and then leave and almost all of them have already ‘found their club’ by the time they arrive in the city. In fact, most of them are not aware that Göttingen has a club playing in the German football league pyramid.
Switch off TV and watch Football
At the end of last season, the fans decided that it was high time they took some action to save the local football clubs in Lower Saxony, and the initiative Glotze aus – Stadion an, was born. Initially aimed only at the region, within days supporters from ‘big clubs’ as far afield as BFC Dynamo Berlin, Altona 93 of Hamburg (often hailed as the new St. Pauli), Dresdner SC 1898 and even Switzerland got in touch and spread the word. It appears that these fans have been waiting for just such an initiative to come up.
The aim is to increase gate figures by convincing football fans to switch off their TV on a Saturday afternoon and attend a live match at their local football club instead. While this sounds like an open attack on Sky Germany, this is not the case. It is an attempt to awaken the DFB and the TV stations to the state of the amateur game in Germany.
They have a point. A league where the majority of clubs have given up on attending away matches and where there was no relegation last season is not an easy sale for potential spectators. So, before the DFB hastily reshuffles the leagues, we first need to stop and think.
Of course, the clubs have to work hard themselves if they are to convince people, making potential fans aware of their club, but it is hoped that, through this initiative, the DFB – who has taken note – will listen and take the amateur game more seriously. Attempts are now being made to establish a network among the various fan groups and a meeting of all the groups that support the campaign is planned this year. Whether this group has the potential to become a powerful lobby organization in German football remains to be seen, but action is finally being taken – and that can only be a good thing.