Finally! Summer break is over and weekends have meaning once again.
The Europa League qualifiers against Wolfsberg (1:0 / 5:0), the first cup-round against Chemnitz (2:0). and a stunning performance against Borussia Mönchengladbach (4:0) have whetted Dortmund supporters’ appetite for more. All could be well . . . if it wasn’t for some outrageous ticket prices our away support will face this season.
Germans complaining about ticket prices? This might sound odd, particular to British supporters and folks used to NBA, NHL, NFL or MLB prices.
“Those Germans with their huge terraces, cheap tickets, fuelled by affordable in-venue beer and sausage offerings! How dare they complain!”
Unfortunately – and contrary to the beliefs of many people – Germany is not necessarily a cheap haven for football spectators anymore.
The Problem of Match Categorization
Granted, British supporters can only dream of paying the season ticket prices of German terraces (such as the oft-quoted 150 € in Munich’s south stand). Away days, however, are becoming increasingly more expensive, particularly for clubs who guarantee a sold-out visitors’ section.
And it’s not the inflation, either!
The prime concern of the travelling support is called Topspielzuschläge, which is a premium added to normal match-day prices based on attractiveness of opponent. It’s not yet as abhorrent as the £62 Arsenal charged the Man City support back in January 2013. Alas, we are getting close, at least by German standards.
As is the case in England, it has become common practice for clubs to categorize their opponents and price match tickets accordingly on this side of the Channel as well. In other words, more and more savvy executives have leveraged the law of supply and demand to try to squeeze as much money out of the loyal away support as possible. Thanks to the successful years under Jürgen Klopp’s reign, Borussia Dortmund regularly makes Category A alongside Bayern Munich.
The home club’s economic calculation is obvious and understandable: matches against Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund will sell out despite higher prices, so why not pocket additional cash?
Yet, TSG Hoffenheim might have crossed a line this year. While a trip to the billionaire-backed village club has never been popular amongst football supporters, this season, there is an additional reason to not pay a visit to SAP-founder Dietmar Hopp’s toy club this year.
Supporting Dortmund? You’ll pay double.
As most of you may know, away ends in Germany are usually divided into standing and seate areas. While ticket prices for the standing area remain average, Hoffenheim charges sky-high prices for away seats. Dortmund and Munich supporters will have to pay a minimum of 55 € if unable to get hold of a ticket for the standing area.
By comparison, supporters from FC Augsburg (who finished 5th last season) pay a mere 26 € for away seats. Even our rivals from Gelsenkirchen (who finished 6th last season) and VfB Stuttgart (who Hoffenheim consider their ‘local rivals,’ although no-one takes them seriously on that) pay “only” 35 €, about 64% the cost of the Bayern and Dortmund seats, or precisely 20 € less.
Kein Zwanni calls for a boycott
This absurd pricing strategy led Dortmund-based campaigning group Kein Zwanni (“No 20€”) call for a match boycott. So far, the Supporters Department as well as the big Ultra groups have followed the appeal and will not travel to Hoffenheim in September. Hopefully, Hoffenheim executives will face an empty away end and realize that supporters – although keen to follow their team to every match – are not willing to pay through the nose.
Kein Zwanni has called for several boycotts in recent years and successfully negotiated with various clubs across Germany. The group was formed in 2010 when FC Schalke charged more than 20€ for the cheapest standing area ticket in the notorious Revierderby. It became the first derby in years which was not sold out due to the ensuing boycott by Dortmund supporters.
Over the years, supporters from other German clubs have joined Kein Zwanni. High-profile boycotts and negotiations with club officials have made some clubs rethink their pricing policies. Among others, FC Schalke and Hamburger SV agreed to lower prices for the away end. Borussia Dortmund themselves at least agreed to abolish premium prices for away supporters altogether.
Yet, as the example of Hoffenheim proves, there is still a long road ahead.