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August 17 2009, Hamburg

July 27, 2009

We recently bought a new computer, and it is much louder than we had either imagined or than we really enjoy.
And so to disguise the unwanted racket we’ve simply placed it a little further away from the monitor than is  practical and have turned our speakers up a little bit more than our otologist would approve of.

All well and good, but why the hell is that of interest?

Because, in a very real sense, it is exactly what the German football bosses are doing as regards the fixture list – hiding the “problem” fixtures by moving matches around and so pretending there are no problems, rather than energetically trying to solve the problems.

We move our computer rather than see about getting a new cooler and/or harddrive installed and the DFB move fixtures rather than invest the effort in useful dialogue.

And whereas our policy won’t lead to any longer term damage, the DFBs approach is counter productive in a number of respects.

Firstly, as we’ve said before, the fans are going to have to meet some time. It’s all but inevitable. Given that, why not discuss any potential problems as early as possible. Anything else is just stupid.

Secondly, through such actions the German FA are harming fan culture.

The fixture change that has got our goat, and in a way forced this post, involves St Pauli II against Halle.

As a Halle fan you have dreamed, for years, of playing against St Pauli. Not because Pauli are an especially important club, nor because the Millnertor Stadium is one of Europe’s finest.

No. Having dragged your wet, tired arse for years around centres of footballing excellence such as Pößneck, Völpke and Markrandstädt; having stood in rain, snow and shine watching football matches with no rival fans; having sung, chanted and waved flags to motivate your team against Dresden Nord, Eilenburg and all those other half-horse towns that football fans in eastern Germany are forced to visit and endure as guests …  after all that, you end up in the same league as St.Pauli. And OK it may only be St. Pauli reserves but you know that the St Pauli fans will be there in good numbers.
And as a Halle fan you can’t wait.

This is the reward for the work, effort and sacrifice of the past seasons. Finally, an away match against some real opposition and, most importantly, against well filled home terraces. A chance to prove your worth as a collective body of fans, to measure yourself against a new opponent.

And then the authorities move the match to 1800Uhr on a Monday evening and send St. Pauli’s first team to Aachen on the same evening!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Why not just elbow the Halle fans in the solar plexus?  It’s nothing less than stealing aspiration.

As a young Halle fan, investing the little cash that you have in football, such actions will cause you to eventually ask yourself if it is all worth it. Why travel to Hamburg on Monday evening to watch a match in an empty stadium when you can do that in Halberstadt on a Sunday afternoon for a fraction of the price and aggravation?

And so, long-term, such a policy can only succeed in driving away those football fans who are not already a fixed part of the fan scene as, simply put,  it reduces the incentive to invest on account of the extremely low chances of ever seeing a return on your investment.

The problem is that one of the best chances of improving the much hyped “security” situation associated with eastern German football is  through a strengthening and expanding of the fan scene.

For where you have a strong, confident and heterogeneous body of fans, you have a greater chance of both reducing the potential for violence within the group and of allowing a more rational and considered approach to conflicts with the police – which remains the main source of violent confrontations.

Now we do genuinely appreciate that for the authorities it is all about “deescalation”. We really do.

But shitting themselves is the wrong response, not least because, there will be large police presence in Hamburg on 17.08, as:

* Halle are East German and have a certain “reputation” (see compare and contrast from 24.07 if you don’t believe us)

* There will be a few folks in Hamburg who wont be going to Aachen, but who do have an unhealthy interest in the Halle fans. That the Pauli SKBs are needed in Aachen, who is on hand in HH to keep any eye on things?

* No-one in Hamburg wants any negative headlines and so will send out the police ….

And so what will happen is that a hard core of Halle/LOK/Erfurt fans who have a catalogue of negative experiences with the police – some of their own making – will travel to Hamburg and be met with a police force expecting the worst. The result may not be pretty.

If the German authorities are serious about creating a situation where football matches occur without large numbers of police they should one the one hand focus on creating a situation whereby the fans of successful teams see themselves as being rewarded for their teams on field success, and on the other take the chance offered by matches such as Pauli II against Halle to test out new approaches to the preparation of football matches where an increased security risk exists. That way they can develop sustainable policies to football crowd management that could find employment in other countries and regions.

Which would be nice.

And a third problem is that it really mucks up our preparations when fixture dates change … how the hell are we meant to get back from Hamburg on a Monday evening!!!!

We could look for a train connection on-line, only……

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