Clashes between fans and police overshadow the football weekend. Both sides blame each other – and can’t seem to find a way out.
Brute violence on St. Pauli, pepper spray in Bochum, arrests in Stuttgart: The renewed escalation in the ongoing conflict between fans and police is once again leaving German football perplexed and angry.
These are “disturbing impressions that seriously damage football and fan culture and hopefully do not lead to further escalations,” said St. Paulis President Oke Göttlich after the violent clashes at Hamburg’s Millerntor, in which at least 32 people were injured.
Supporters of Hannover 96 and police officers clashed in the visitors’ stand, and after the game, fans of second division leaders FC St. Pauli clashed with emergency services. The first result: 15 injured fans and 17 injured police officers. A day later, the police in Bochum used pepper spray against Cologne fans. In Stuttgart the police took eleven VfB fans into custody on the same day because they were said to have refused to accept sending off.
Last week a police officer was seriously injured in the derby between Hanover and Braunschweig. The German Football Association is investigating the incidents in Bochum and St. Pauli, as the DFB confirmed to the German Press Agency. The fact that eleven people were injured during the Bundesliga game in Augsburg by a firecracker that was thrown out of the area of the away fans from Hoffenheim further fueled the discussion about safety in German stadiums.
The relationship between police and fans is tense. “The situation is deadlocked, a solution in a kind of fan-police dialogue is unfortunately unrealistic,” said fan representative Dario Minden from the “Our Curve” alliance when asked by the dpa: “On the fan side there are no representative structures at all and certainly often also no interest in dialogue at all, while on the other side there is a police force that often acts unlawfully.”
“We’re not dealing with fan culture here”
The police see it differently. “We are not dealing with fan culture here, but with violent criminals,” said Hamburg police chief Falk Schnabel. Fanhilfe Hannover described the deployment of security forces in the Millerntor Stadium as “disproportionate”, and some fans of the opponent also expressed solidarity with the 96 fans and started chanting against the officials.
The police justified the operation in the guest block by saying that “a male person had obviously been seriously attacked”. She said she went to the block to “prevent something worse from happening.” The emergency services were then attacked by 96 fans. At times there were fights and throwing of cups and poles.
The emergency services used pepper spray against away fans, which later caused criticism. The game was stopped for about five minutes. One fan had to be treated in hospital. A police officer suffered multiple fractures.
Criticism from fan representatives
“I can’t imagine under what conditions it would be a smart idea to storm into a crowded block of football fans. Escalation is inevitable,” said fan representative Minden. “We have never experienced such an orgy of violence from the police at football games,” said a spokesman for Fanhilfe Hannover. The German Police Union in Hamburg, however, criticized the “violent attacks” against the officers “in the strongest possible terms”.
There was also criticism of an “excessive police operation” from the Cologne Fan Aid on Saturday evening after officers supported the stewards with entry into the Bochum stadium. According to the police, supporters of Cologne’s “problem fan scene” are said to have exerted great pressure. Pepper spray was also used “for a short time”.
Fan researcher: More police also provoke more violence
After the violent riots in the Lower Saxony duel between Hannover and Eintracht Braunschweig a week ago, fan researcher Gunter Pilz doubted the sense of the massive police presence. “More police does not ensure more security. On the contrary: more police also provoke more violence,” the 78-year-old sports sociologist told the “Braunschweiger Zeitung”.
The conflict between police and fans is not a new phenomenon. Both sides accuse each other of being responsible for the escalation. According to Jonas Gabler, a mushroom fan researcher, the conflict has escalated in recent years. “It hasn’t gotten better, but rather worse,” he said in March of this year.
The massive appearance of the police would leave fans with the feeling that the police were not taking a differentiated approach, Gabler told the German Press Agency at the time.
Fan representative Minden goes in a similar direction: “Yes, there is a problem with violence at football games. A complex problem for which, unfortunately, there are no simple solutions. Unfortunately, as an active football fan, you often get the feeling that the police are not here as part of the solution, but as part of the problem.”
I am Pierce Boyd, a driven and ambitious professional working in the news industry. I have been writing for 24 Hours Worlds for over five years, specializing in sports section coverage. During my tenure at the publication, I have built an impressive portfolio of articles that has earned me a reputation as an experienced journalist and content creator.