The Bundesliga’s biggest rivalry came and went Sunday without stories of battles between Ultras groups of Borussia Dortmund and Schalke outside Signal Iduna Park. Nor were there reports of supporter groups clashing with police or even the vandalism that seems too often to be visited upon the host city of German football’s biggest rivalry matches.
It turns out that the fans were too busy working together to protest a security measure to be bothered with the stereotypical behavior some assume of the most-passionate football fans.
Acting on a suggestion of local police, Borussia Dortmund reduced the number of tickets made available to visiting Schalke fans for Sunday’s Revierderby from 10% of stadium capacity to 7.5%, or 6,261 seats.
Schalke fans responded by issuing a boycott of the match, while imploring those who would attend to be on their best behavior to help promote the best interests of football fan culture by showing the police the rivalry can take place in a peaceful atmosphere. Over 100 individual fan groups co-signed the missive published by Ultras Gelsenkirchen, which ended with, “We Shalker want our derby back — full guest contingent and freedom to travel –100% derby!”
Publicly, the club said of the boycott that it “regretted this decision, but has understanding for its reasons.” The club also has been imploring fans to avoid violence, vandalism, and the use of pyrotechnics while visiting Dortmund to keep from further complicating matters between football clubs and local authorities.
Because DFB statutes provide that home clubs offer their visitors’ fans 10% of the available match tickets, though provisions are made for the consideration of security, particularly when a club acts in accordance to consultations with the local police. Dortmund police reportedly had originally requested that the away-fan quota be halved and also that fans be required to register their identities with their tickets. The final decision, though, rested with the club itself.
Similar measures were enacted in Köln for their match day 5 hosting of the Rheinderby with despised neighbor Borussia Mönchengladbach. The visiting fans of die Fohlen also launched a boycott campaign. The somewhat-empty away section on the day of 1. FC Köln’s 1:0 win was met with a silent South Curve, as the home side’s ultras groups declined to provide the traditional atmosphere to show their disapproval of the security measures enacted by their own club.
Shortly before the latest edition of Dortmund-Schalke was to begin, with the guest block only partially occupied, BVB fans delivered a sign of solidarity with their royal blue peers. Near the bottom of the famed yellow wall was unfurled a banner that called for a “Full 10% for Guest Fans – All Clubs!”
As for the return leg of the derby in April, Schalke sporting director Horst Heldt says Schalke 04 has already decided against enacting similar security measures.
“We shouldn’t allow limitations,” says Heldt. “I believe that it is important to stand together. We have decided that we will provide the full guest quota for the return leg.”
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