Sachsen’s Innenminister Albert Buttalo doesn’t smoke F6.
That, to begin, is perhaps the most important fact to emerge from today’s “Meet the Press” afternoon involving Herr Buttalo, Hessen’s Interior minister Volker Bouffier, DFB president Theo Zwanziger and SFV President Klaus Reichenbach in Chemnitz.
Which isn’t to say the excersise was without merit.
For despite the fact that the greater part of the meeting consisted of little more than retreading well-covered ground, there were a few important points.
Opening the session, Minister Buttalo remarked that on account of events in 2007 Sachsen had been flung into the media spotlight and, somewhat to Buttalos embarrassment, he had been forced to provide an explanation in front of the other Innenministers as to why.
That is why the media reported so negatively about football in Sachsen, you understand.
Arising from this, Sachsen started a concentrated programme against violence at football matches – including properly funding fan projects, re-thinking police strategy, re-thinking the role of stewards and the camera drone
Later came the comment from Theo Z. that problems with football violence are no greater in eastern Germany than in western.
The reasoning was based on the even distribution of “High Risk” matches; on the one hand a thoroughly subjective and, as with Kategorie C, B etc, pretty meaningless attribute, and on the other a potential slight of hand from the authorities. It may arise that a club such as Braunschweig are involved in 10 High Risk matches per season; but when four of them are against eastern German teams -and we all know Herr Grandes quote – then that will artificially skew the figures.
That said, the fact that violence at football in eastern Germany is no greater that that in western is indeed a fact.
If not one the media is ready to accept without the slight of hand.
The media response to Theo’s announcement once again showing that the media are always happiest when they can throw in a figure or two.
But we digress. The above two points are important in that they converge and inter-twine in our general perception of football violence.
Firstly, it is the first tacit admission that the media coverage led to the decision that Sachsen had a problem and something needed to be done. Or at least that the media coverage embarrassed the government into Sachsen into taking steps. And not a fact based decision bzw. a decision based on an internal report which identified a problem.
Now we know and accept our role in the events of 2007, actually 2006/2007, and we also know that a lot of the media coverage from that time was badly researched, headline-driven journalism. Which posses the question as to if the correct things were done, and in fact if anything really needed to be done at all?
It also explains why the media coverage since 2007 has been so inconsistent and irregular.
In 1999 the match between Kickers Offenbach and Waldorf Mannheim ended with scenes that were compared in the press with a “battlefield”. That this came only a matter of months after German hooligans had attacked French policeman Daniel Nivel in Lens during the 1998 World Cup, the media was naturally full of dark prophecies about the end of football as we know it….
In the end nothing really happened, other then the hools drifted away.
The positive developments that we have seen in Sachsen over the past years can partly be attributed to the actions undertaken by the authorities in Sachsen – for all the funding of the fan projects which has definitely had a positive impact in many fan scenes and the widespraed use of professional “own stewards” by clubs at away matches.
But the improvement can principally be attributed to cultural and demographic changes over the years.
Scenes change, they always do, it’s why they are called scenes, and while one can, yes, attempt to influence and control the change, it will almost always occur with it’s own energy and dynamic.
And so the fan scene in Sachsen would have changed, and will change further in the future. The most important thing is that the authorities don’t lose the positive contact that they know have with the fan scenes and so can respond professionally and correctly to changes.
And that independent of the media coverage.
Because the scene and the dynamic within the scene will continue to change independent of the media.
Had the authorities in Sachsen properly analysed and followed developments amongst football fans and within football since the late 90s, it would never have come to the headlines, the embarrassment and, ergo, not to the impression that the problem is worse in East than in West.
Our problem is that we believe the authorities in Sachsen still base their decision process on media stories and not facts. We’re certainly not seeing that much which encourages an alternative view and so nothing that leads us to believe they will be prepared for any future negative changes.
A second interesting point was Minister Bouffier’s assertion that one of the central pillars of the police’s fight against violence in football is communication. In short that everyone knows what is happening and why.
Again we fully support this aim and don’t doubt for a minute the Ministers seriousness in striving for such.
However, and as with so many things, the practice on the ground looks somewhat different to the reality.
Among those officers who are responsible for police operations around football matches there exists wide variation between those who are good and those who would contribute more to public security if they remained at home.
The real problem, however, is the front line officers.
Minister Bouffier spoke sensibly about how officers in buses and in trains should keep fans informed of, for example,the reason for delays. Which they should.
Now we know it’s not Minister Bouffier’s fault that he isn’t out and about with his officers ever weekend, but nice as it is to think of the Bereitschaftspolizist as friend and helper who proactively interacts with the fans, the reality is completely different.
We wont go into the reasons here, but suffice to say within the police forces of Germany, and for all in the training centres, there is still an awful lot more work to be done and an awful lot more to be taught and researched.
And while this work is being undertaken, clubs, police and fans should concentrate their efforts on setting up formal communication chains on match days. We know that there are a few good projects in action, but the problem is always the police being prepared to give up part of their authority to representatives of the fans. It involves taking a couple of steps backwards, but can prevent those small, initial confrontations that can then grew.
In a quite moment or two we spoke to Klaus Reichenbach, and after assuring him that the coverage of the Jena II: RB Leipzig match was horribly overinflated it was reassuring to hear that he wasn’t actually concerned about fan groups getting together to fight against RBL-M; despite comments which suggested the contrary.
As we said, all in all an entertaining an informative afternoon – although we did miss a few sandwiches.
And no, we’re not saying which brand Minister Buttalo smokes.