13 September ~ The derby between FC Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund is probably the biggest in Germany. It is the German “Old Firm” and has had its fair share of highlights over the past decades. Jens Lehmann once scored in the dying seconds to equalise for Schalke, Borussia ruined Schalke's title hopes in 2007 with a 2-0 win – one of only three wins for the Black and Yellows in the last 26 matches. On the terraces a banner reading Ein Leben Lang Keine Schale In Der Hand (A lifetime without a championship) greeted the 49th anniversary of Schalke’s last title.
It will be different when the game kicks off in Gelsenkirchen at 5.30pm next Sunday. More than 300 different Dortmund fan groups are backing a boycott appeal for this match. Over 1,500 tickets have been returned (of 6,000 available). As this is high-security match, tickets for the terraces cannot be sold on matchday, so for the first time in many years the derby will not be sold out.
The boycott is directed against yet another price hike by Bundesliga clubs. With a top match surcharge, travelling Borussia fans would need to pay €22 for a terrace ticket and an average of €55 for a seat. When the two teams met for the last time earlier this year, the very same ticket would cost €14.30. We believe that this is an attempt to have higher ticket prices set in stone and have decided to fight it.
Nearly every Bundesliga fan has been asked to pay more in recent years. Supporters fear that a Premier League trend has taken over German football in the last decade or so – forcing moderate income groups and younger fans out of the stadiums, and looking for new customers who will accept higher prices in exchange for seeing the latest stars from all over the world.
The Bundesliga's chief selling point, however, is its unique atmosphere, alongside lower ticket prices than in all the other major European leagues. Stadiums are sold out – the average attendance last season was 42,490. Fans travel over from Benelux, the UK and Scandinavia to see Bundesliga matches and enjoy a beer and a bratwurst while standing on the terraces.
This is slowly changing. The campaign Kein Zwanni für nen Steher (20 euros for standing – no way!) is challenging the price hike and wants to see the Bundesliga continue to be affordable for all social classes for years to come. Over the weekend other supporter groups from different clubs joined the campaign, showing their feelings with banners. It will be a long and hard road to success. We believe it is worth taking. Stephan Uersfeld www.schwatzgelb.com