“Borussia Dortmund seem to see themselves as some sort of custodians of the pure; ‘verein’ of the commoner; the Jedi battling against the Empire.”
The debate regarding the legitimacy and compliance of RB Leipzig’s membership within the construct of the Bundesliga has been done to death. I’ve addressed this in more depth in my review of RB Leipzig v Schalke. To summarise, the complicity of the football-starved people of Leipzig (Lok and Chemie have their place and their attraction, but you can’t blame fans for wanting some ‘big-time’ football) should not be taken as sinful; they have not provided the fertile ground for the ascension of RB Leipzig – the Bundesliga and DfL have. If anything, they are being exploited as part of a marketing vehicle; satiated in the way that the UK population are placated with Strictly and X-Factor. RB Leipzig may be exploiting that fizzy beverages and football are the bread and circuses of the day.
Borussia Dortmund seem to see themselves as some sort of custodians of the pure; ‘verein’ of the commoner; the Jedi battling against the Empire. However, while Borussia Dortmund fans rightly win plaudits for their vibrancy and the club clearly respects them reciprocally, it is impossible to ignore the hypocrisy that tinges some of these ‘protests’.
A word about these ‘protests’ first of all; it is important to separate hooliganism from making a statement. The former act of protest, the belligerent reception gifted by some fans, was a bunch of silly little boys using RB Leipzig’s loopholed compliance of the ’50+1′ rule as justification to act like thugs. They filmed themselves throwing beer and flares, taking a few steps forward with that starfish body language that says ‘come and have a go’, then, when the police moved in their direction, they hid their acne-riddled, bum-fluffed little faces with scarves and hoodies, trying to earn their stripes as a bona-fide ultra. Yawn, yawn. Would they have been so “courageous” had it been a team like Dresden, Rostock, Magdeburg or Halle? I think not.
The actual protests with any significance or meaning – those inside the ground – were brilliantly done. The whole world sees the messages that adorn the Südtribune every two weeks and this way millions can see and discuss the view of the fans without the club’s reputation being stained by these idiots. It may be coincidence, but the last time I attended a Dortmund game, there was also a disturbance involving hooligans and police, although Eintracht Frankfurt were the visitors in town that day and this mindless act of violence took place next to Reinoldikirche.
That German Football fans seem united in their disapproval of RB Leipzig is evident and, by all means, have an opinion on them as a club. However the real problem is that the Bundesliga have allowed them to participate in the competition having only 17 members (with voting rights), whilst actively discouraging, via prohibitive costs and not allowing any voting rights, any fan participation on how the club is run. Outside Germany, this is not uncommon but the Bundesliga, perhaps to the chagrin of certain clubs, have stood by the ’50+1′ rule, in principle anyway.
Borussia Dortmund, like other clubs in the Bundesliga, have corporate links – surely it’s what helps keep them competitive? Without the corporate involvement of Evonik, Signal Iduna, Puma etc, they would be accompanying the nobility of their principles with mediocre football: Mario Götze et al are not social revolutionaries. Nor do they claim to be. But Borussia Dortmund fans seem to have the piety to claim great levels of integrity as a club that simply do not withstand scrutiny.
The club has well over 100000 members who have first refusal on tickets, that they can procure via a horrendous call centre (online free sales only occur, on occasion, for cup games). This protectionism, rightly or wrongly, does make it difficult for the football fan from elsewhere to attend their games, providing fertile ground for the enormous numbers of black market Dortmund tickets exchanging hands for exorbitant amounts on viagogo and other resale sites. Some of these members are fleecing people on a fortnightly basis. Dortmund has become a football tourism temple – nothing wrong with that per se – but this is being exploited by its members to the extent that they are making a hefty markup on tickets. Are these the same fans that claim the moral high ground over RB Leipzig fans?
The irony of the retro scoreboard being used (one assumes, to mock the lack of history of their opponents), being sponsored by Brinkhoff’s, may be lost on some but corporate participation also takes place at the corporately-renamed Signal Iduna Park. The Dortmund fans should protest against the DFL for not clamping down on Red Bull by all means, but those throwing the stones (some literally) may find that they need to get their own glass house in order first.
Football clubs can be a great vehicle for good when their fans support them properly. However, fans should remember that the opposition fans are really just people, like them, who enjoy football and enjoy all that surrounds it. Banter and friendly rivalry is part of that, but violence never should be. If RB Leipzig are the Voldemort of the footballing world, BVB are certainly not the Harry Potter or Dumbledore they claim to be.