German football struggling to contain growing violence

The police report said the 2011/12 season had the highest number of criminal proceedings in 12 years

German football is struggling to contain growing violence with newly released 2011/12 season figures hitting a 12-year-high despite a financial boom and the world's highest average match attendance.

The police report said the 2011/12 season had the highest number of criminal proceedings in 12 years, almost double the amount of injured fans and a more than 20 percent rise in police work hours from the previous season.

Widespread crowd trouble before the Ruhr valley derby between champions Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 late last month and more fighting when Hanover 96 met Dynamo Dresden in the German Cup days later have merely been timely reminders of the existing problem.

"There is nothing to indicate that there is a turning point and a decrease of violence-ready potential within fan groups from Bundesliga to the regional division clubs," the report of the police's central information point for the deployment in sport (ZIS) said.

"For criminal proceedings, injuries and work hours these are the highest figures in 12 years. On top of that criminal proceedings were up 70 percent, work hours up 40 percent and injuries up 120 percent from the 12-year average."

The figures are a stark contrast to the league's financial growth and popularity both within and beyond the German borders as it gradually closes the gap with Europe's top leagues in England and Spain in terms of finances.

With average attendances of over 42,000 fans per game, upgraded or new stadiums and largely debt-free clubs, the Bundesliga recorded its seventh straight year of growth in 2010/11 with the 18 top division clubs alone generating almost 2.0 billion euros. Figures for 2011/12 are not yet available.

A total of 8,143 criminal proceedings against individuals were launched during the last season compared to 5,818 the previous one while the number of injuries almost doubled from 843 in 2010/11 to 1,142.

The total number of potentially violent fans had also risen by 10 percent to 16,500 for 2011/12, the report said.

Police officials said apart from trouble outside the stadium, some problems inside were caused by fans in standing tribunes where they could more easily get away with lighting flares and smoke bombs.

Standing tribunes are allowed in Germany but flares are banned.

The figures are bad news for the organisers of Germany's top two divisions, the German football league (DFL), as they prepare to tackle violence with a new security concept to be approved next month.

The DFL initially drew up its "secure stadium experience" concept foreseeing tougher entry checks but met with immediate rejection from some fan clubs last month, who said spectators were not consulted in the process.

The DFL hastily rowed back saying it would seek input from fan clubs and review its proposal before putting it to a vote on Dec. 12

"It is important that everyone involved takes on their responsibility and acts accordingly," the DFL said in a brief statement on Monday after the release of the report. "In the search for solutions there is no need to dramatise things or play them down.

"With this in the background, the leagues are working together with the clubs and in a dialogue with all sides for practical solutions with good judgement that will be on the agenda at the meeting on Dec. 12."

Reuters

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