There are plenty of reasons why German football fans are the best ones around. Fans across the world learnt from them how to effectively be their team’s 12th man, how to show true support and loyalty but most importantly today’s lesson was how to be human. In the Bundesliga, the fans have a say in their club’s decisions and moves. The German football model is based on the fans owning the club, they decide upon the strategy of their team upon the coming year but beyond all, last week they decided to welcome refugees who were fleeing war. They took matters into their own hands showing us glimpses of hope, that humanity is not dead.
During last week news circulated about the deaths of refugees in a truck. This isn’t the first time refugees die while attempting to get into Europe and unfortunately, it won’t be the last. This bad news invoked the humane feelings in the German football fans. People rushed to provide toys for children, food and water for those who need and they even held banners in the stadiums showing their full support by welcoming them with banners and even free football tickets!
Borussia Dortmund invited 220 refugees to attend their football match last week against Norwegian side Odds Ballklubb. People of different color and ethnicity were welcomed into the stadium. There was no differentiation; Dortmund kicked racism out of football by this initiative. Things like this, restore our hope and faith in the sport being a genuine force of good that breaches gaps between people from different parts of the world.
Besides welcoming refugees, German football deserves a lot of respect. The Bundesliga has the lowest ticket prices and the highest average attendance of Europe’s five major leagues. The attendance is quite high yet the league limits the number of season tickets to provide everyone with a chance to see live football. They even respect the 10% quota for away fans and most of the time; the away team fills their stands. Match-day tickets are kept at fairly low prices as the club remains loyal to its fans and refuses to seek financial gains on behalf of its people. This is a sustainable model, one that respects the primary purpose of football, the fans and yet it manages to keep the clubs debt free.
Germany’s famous 50 + 1 rule implies that more than 50% of any club’s ownership should be held by the fans. Any company wishing to invest in a German team has to settle for less than 50%, this means that it cannot take control without the consent of the fans. The rule has an exception, companies are allowed to take control of the club only after 20 years of being a constant investor and supporter. After 20 years, the company has proven to the fans that it takes the club seriously and cares about its future.
While FIFA, world football’s governing body was hit with plenty of scandals regarding corruption, the fans remain the ones who can control and change the game. The acceptance of refugees into societies has plenty of positive effects and many of them turn out to be loyal to their host country. Netherlands, France, Belgium, Germany and Sweden are examples of a few countries that gave refugees a chance and were repaid with great players like Zidane, Zlatan, Henry and many more.
As the world’s most popular sport, football has the power to have an important social impact and to be a force for good. The German fans deserve a lot of respect for being pioneers in tackling racism. Last weekend they called for acceptance and diversity. Refugees are running away from war and discrimination, they deserve to be welcomed with open arms and be allowed to live peacefully and who knows maybe Europe’s future star is one of those who made it into Europe this year.