It is no secret that the Hertha BSC Ultras have several issues with the board members and executives of the club.
For over a year now many of them have made it clear that they blame members of the board for problems on and off the pitch, in particular they blame Paul Keuter, the head of digitization, a man that they believe its responsible for the club being on the path to selling its soul in order to become popular and lose its traditionalism in the process.
No Hertha fan wants to become a Premier League type club, nor do they want to follow the direction of RB Leipzig.
The problem is that some of the hardcore supporters refuse to budge or accept that there may be other and sometimes far more effective and reasonable beliefs about the direction the club should take, other than their own.
The ultras withdrew from dialogue with the board long ago, citing that their opinions and their concerns were not being listened to, catered for or even regarded by those in higher management.
With the changes brought to the club last season in their poor marketing campaign, the board stumbled backwards and then backtracked in order to rectify the issues this season. The modifications made to the marketing approach included the reintroduction of regional training for the players, dedicating each home game to a Berlin district and being inclusive of all Berliners in their approach. This was received extremely well by the supporters and seemed to be a step back in the right direction.
But as is so often with the Hertha hierarchy, they shot themselves in the foot and then equally stabbed themselves and the fans in the back by attempting to change the clubs ‘Einlauflied’ (Entrance music as the players enter the field to begin the game) from the tradition of 25 years ‘Nur Nach Hause’ by Frank Zander, to ‘Dickes B’ by Seeed.
The change itself wasn’t the sole reason supporters, be they ultras or not, were aggravated.
The reason behind the fury being directed at the higher management was down to the fact that they had failed to open any discussion with the members of the club about the change, of which was quite obviously going to seriously upset the fans.
Only the evening before, perhaps 14 hours before the opening game at home against Nurnberg was due to kick off, were all members of Hertha BSC sent an email detailing the new structure of the organised support and build up to the game which had redacted ‘Nur Nach Hause’ and pushed it back to be performed by Zander, 20 minutes before kick off. ‘Dickes B’, a song about the city of Berlin itself, was about to become the new team entrance song… and without approval. The outcome was as a PR disaster. The team entered the field to a chorus of boos, not directed at them but at the song.
No official statement was made and the fans were given little if no time at all to react other than create a banner which read “Nur nach Hause…Jetzt”.
The fans did not take part in the proposed build up, instead the ultras proceeded to do what they always did before a game.
And instead of bowing down to the request on the board, Nur Nach Hause was sung aloud anyway.
Within the following 24 hours the board had realised, very quickly, the extend of its own mistake, and in doing do had reversed the decision and reinstated the Einlauflied to Frank Zanders classic hymne.
It did not appease most fans.
Many Ultras or even just every day fans, find reasons to backchat the board. Whether it be small matter or something far more significant.
The Einlauflied matter was something that almost all supported backed up the ultras on, as it was something that most felt strongly about. But matters such as ‘Keuter raus’ still divide opinion. Whist this is a club of great tradition, it also cannot be stuck in the past and must move forward with the times whilst remaining true to its own values and traditions.
The reason is that some fans believe the refusal of dialogue from the ultras towards the board is a major part of the problem. The board don’t understand what the fans want because the biggest sector of them, aren’t speaking. The refusal to discuss anything means nothing of concern is ever addressed, and the board continue to work and act on their own agenda… because there’s no one else’s agenda to consider, there’s no one the stop them from acting when their ideas are not entirely beneficial for the majority.
It’s a 50/50 battle with both ends on the offensive and no one wants to back down. The management constantly has to defend itself for its decisions but the ultras refusing to attend meetings with them means there’s absolutely no one from the Ostkurve to bat them back down when they (the board) are clearly in the wrong. At the same time, the Ultras must understand that not all their demands can be met for certain reasons, whether they be financial constrains or something else. No one has it all their own way.
The debacle of Dortmund.
Pyro isn’t legal to use in Germany. Many ultras that use them know the consequence at very least will be a four to five figure fine to the club. It’s happened on many occasions with a number of clubs and it’s nothing new.
But the boards reaction to a violent incident at the Signal Iduna park during Hertha’s away match against Borussia Dortmund, is one that has to be questioned.
If your club’s fans do something horrendously wrong, there is no way the management can defend those supporters. They have to condemn them because not only is it a requirement but defending supporters that have clearly done something illegal is just morally wrong.
In many cases’s that is exactly what has happened and that isn’t just true of Hertha as a club.
The club has been punished before for several issues regarding banners and pyrotechnics. One such banner was seemingly homophobic last season against FC Koln. The punishment was dished out accordingly and the ultras didn’t react in a disgruntled manner because those responsible were dealt with accordingly.
But the matter in Dortmund was different and was handled badly from both sides. First the management board and executives in their sanctions, then the Ultras in the Ostkurve for their own protest reaction.
The story of what exactly took place in Dortmund isn’t entirely clear, and that possibly why the fans reacted the way that they did and why Michael Preetz’s sanctions that were deemed excruciatingly harsh on the fans as a whole, were so widely criticised.
Rewatching footage of the events that took place, it seems that Hertha’s second largest Ostkurve Ultras section, ‘Hauptstadtmafia’, were celebrating their 15 year anniversary and did so by displaying a large banner with their title on it.
There was nothing offensive depicted on the banner nor was there any obvious reason for the police to intervene with it. Banners in away section blocks are relatively normal, until there is something offensive displayed. According to Dortmund police, some fans were using it to shield themselves with pyro’s so they could not be detected and then identified but the fans deny that this was the case. Looking closer it seems as though the fans were telling the truth.
Previous to the reveal, ultras had released several pyro smoke bombs. Whilst it is a concern when they go off, the usual reaction is to allow the smoke to dissipate and the the flares to burn out as the stewards and police try and single out who was responsible for lighting it. Unless someones throws one at someone else with the intention to harm them, it’s never usually an issue.
But the Dortmund police began to rally and then kettle the supporters, attempting to dislodge the banner and began to attack the guest fans as they fought back to keep their banner. About 100 traveling fans then became engaged in a battle with armed policed officers who beat them back. In response, those supporters fought back as well and it ended in a small scale riot.
No one was sure why the police took the actions that they did and why they became so violent so quickly, especially considering that after the 2-2 draw, Dortmund supporters ad Ultras openly supported the traveling Hertha fans over the incident and instead turned their own blame towards the reaction of the police. No one is supporting the violent reactions of some of the Hertha supporters either, because whatever the provocation, they should never have physically fought back and inflamed the situation further.
The following week, Bayern Munich and Hansa Rostock supporters also offered open supports of the Hertha fans after the sanctions to the home match against Leipzig were introduced.
Collective punishments are never taken lightly amongst supporters. Such things affect all fans not just those involved in previous incidents. In fact the vast majority of Hertha fans that attend all home matches, were not present in Dortmund the previous week.
In reaction to the violence, Michael Preetz and the board of directors announced a ban of all stadium flags and banners ‘until further notice’ in the Olympiastadion for both home and away fans.
This meant all of the Ostkurve’s tools of the trade, other than their drum, would not be allowed into the stadium.
The punishment was not received well, and it was no surprise since the majority of those being affected by this sanction, were not even in attendance at the game in Dortmund and yet were being prevented from bringing in their own fanclub banners and flags.
Organisations that support anti racism and inclusive international fan groups that welcome supporters worldwide, were now being told that they could not openly support their campaigns for the club until the ban is lifted.
What’s more, this decision was made before any investigation had been completed on the incident in Dortmund which appeared to show the police, not the supporters, being the instigators of the violence in the guest block. Instead of targeting those handful of fans responsible for the escalation of the violence, Preetz and his board instead decided to punish the every day supporter that had nothing to do with the violence that took place.
Whilst it seems unlikely Preetz alone made this decision, he was the face of the outcome, facing even more criticism from the Ultras than before, just as this season things appeared to be being bridged.
On Thursday, a potential meeting between the Ostkurve and the board of directors was apparently cancelled without reason and little notice. The Ultras again argued their case that they are not being listened to and that the management simply do not care about them, despite their efforts to bridge the gap in the conflict before… but always on their own terms and never that of the fans.
Silence can speak volumes: The protest without voice.
The reaction of the Ostkurve ultras was simple.
‘If we can’t have our flags we’re not organising the support’. In other words, it becomes like a Premier League game. The singing is scattered in a huge stadium and the atmosphere is non existent.
Against a club like Red Bull Leipzig, of which has an ultras section that would never respect traditionalism like other Bundesliga would have, were never going to be silent. They were all you could hear for the duration of the game.
The problem with such a type of protest is that ultimately it does affect the players.
Whether the flags are present or not the players are far too focused on the game to ever watch the fans flying flags and banners.
But they can however, still hear you, and this time, all they could hear was their opponents singing.
Whilst Pal Dardai had prepared the players for the boycott, no player can prepare for that feeling of not being loved by your own supporters.
The lack of audible support made the Olympiastadion feel like a ghost stadium.
The decision also had a horrible impact on fans not part of Ostkurve, or part of the ultras. Some fear the retribution of the ultras and therefore followed their lead and did not sing either.
But the point they wanted to make, whilst made, was one that came at a cost.
Hertha played poorly and lost the game 3-0. Whilst it cannot be blamed on the atmosphere entirely, that boycott played a huge factor. Not just the noise… but the icy atmosphere in general was unpleasant for anything affiliated with Hertha BSC and played right into the hands of all those attached to RB Leipzig.
The cost of the loss of support is the loss of will and aggression to win.
But was this what the ultras wanted? Sacrifice 3 or even just 1 point for the team in order to get a point across to the board?
Imagine had this been a relegation battle match… imagine the rage at losing 3-0 then.
Was it worth losing to a team everyone wants to beat because they are so heavily despised across Germany for what they (red bull) stand for?
Fans willing to sacrifice both points and players confidence to make a point, are to many peoples eyes, incredibly selfish.
They are other ways in which to protest that still ensure the support is as strong as it ever was.
In England, boards and management, owners and rich pigs, take control of clubs all the time and treat them like a play thing. They have zero regard for the supporters and do as they please and it’s something English football fans despise about the modern game. Fans however, never allow their support to dwindle because at the end of the day, the management and board and not the players, made the decisions that the fans aren’t happy with.
The players are not to blame when something goes wrong behind the scenes. A boycott in the style of this one is implemented on the wrong people… it’s impacting the players most of all in a situation that is not their fault.
There is a sense of immaturity about the conflict between the fans and the management now. It’s like watching two children fighting and from the perspective of the every day fan it’s a battle of which they have to be bystanders because unfortunately, whilst the ultras are a huge part of the club and do a lot of hard work for it, they are not the only supporters that exist within the club and there are some issues that some supporters do not agree with them about.
It happens, that’s a democracy. Not everyone in the Labour party agrees with the leaders policies but still agrees with the fundamental outset of the party itself.
But when the board refuse to acknowledge the wishes of the fans and then the Ultras then refuse to speak to the board about their concerns, you enter a stand off… and no one wins those.
Whilst one can understand what exactly it was that the Ultras were trying to achieve with their silence, making a point, the result of it could’ve been the scoreline as well as the sense of desperation and downright lowness for the players.
Imagine going out there and feeling like no one is supporting you? In your own stadium? It’s hardly an appetising prospect.
In turn, the board can look at this and consider what exactly what path they want to take from now on regarding punishments to supporters that do actually cause trouble.
Whilst the Ultras proved a point, one feels there are better ways to do it.
Behave children: The battle continues
It was revealed on Sunday that the Ultras and Ostkurve were given another opportunity to speak to the board members about their concerns on Monday.
Once again they turned down this offer, and yet against the divide between the two remains and only seems to be widening as a result of refusing to speak to one another and cooperate in order to overcome their problems.
As much as both sides have a valid point they are equally to blame for the break down in communications. The Ultras need to learn they cannot have it all their own way and must compromise on certain matters whilst the board have to learn to actually listen to the demands and take into consideration the reasoning behind them.
Compromise is the key word here, because until the two can meet in the middle they will always be engaged in a battle for dominance at the club regarding influence.
By refusing meetings because its not on their own grounds and terms, the Ultras are wasting the chance to actually get their point across directly to the people they’re trying to grab the attention of.
Whilst the board is to blame, in a major part as well, for the sanction and the reactions to them, you have to consider that the response from the Ultras may not have been the best one, there were of course as always, several options. Prematch protests, anti DFB and board chants, a 20 minute silence rather than an entire game ect.
Such an atmosphere in the stadium hinders more than just the players ability to perform, it hinder reputation and from outside world it can appear that the fans look immature because they’re behaving in this manner, influencing the game, when the players were never at fault in the first place for their anger.
Refusal of dialogue is never going to help matters either. Whether the fans think it will help or not, the only solution is to at least try and speak to those in charge about their concerns and if matters still aren’t cleared up, then at least all of us can say ‘We tried’ and then the protests look more justified.
The truth remains.
Real supporters sing for the TEAM. Singing on the inside is not the same thing. It doesn’t do any good. You sing for the club itself, its very foundation. Not for the board, the management, the background staff, or even themselves but for the entire TEAM. And the team need that support. The 12th man concept really does exist. Dortmund prove that week in week out.
Against Bayern Munich, Hertha proved that too, by winning 2-0. The fans were fantastic.
It just seems with this latest stunt the Hertha board have shot themselves in the foot once again and this time they may not be able to appease supporters.
Yes the punishment was unfair. Yes a point was made… but at what cost? And at the end of the day what has it actually achieved other than a loss. Sometimes one thinks those that were silent may as well have just not turned up at all.
But should any of us being punishing the team as a result?
And how do you suggest we finally get the management and the fans to listen to one another before the divide is so large that it totally implodes?
Then again this is just how I see it.
To me the two sides are both to blame for the mess they’ve gotten into. Whilst the board can be widely criticised… the other side isn’t helping itself much either.
The two sides have to start again, if it has to be from scratch then so be it… because at the moment this divide is hurtful for the very day supporter.
Just take a look at the guy on Block P trying to make an atmosphere against Leipzig. The man is a hero.
We all need to be like him
As you were