Right-wing activists more visible on terraces
21 September ~ Borussia Dortmund have collected seven points from the first three games as they look to secure a third consecutive championship. Their league matches regularly attract crowds in excess of 80,000 and the visit of Ajax to open this year's Champions League campaign on Tuesday night was another sell-out, albeit with fewer spectators due to UEFA regulations requiring the South Stand terrace to be converted to a seated area. Even so the Signal Iduna Park is an imposing stadium and the atmosphere generated by the crowds in the South Stand is believed to give Dortmund a real advantage in their home games.
The various "ultra" groups are renowned for their passionate support of the team and for the variety of complicated pre-match displays that they put on. Recently there has been a worrying increase in the visibility of banners supporting right-wing political organisations.
The city of Dortmund has long been a hotbed of neo-Nazi activity in western Germany. As a consequence of this police had assumed that a certain proportion of Dortmund's large following may at least have sympathised with the right-wing political movement. This was confirmed with uncomfortable clarity before Dortmund's season-opening game against Werder Bremen in August, as a small group of fans in the South Stand unrolled a banner proclaiming "Solidarity with the NWDO".
NWDO stands for Nationaler Widerstand Dortmund (National Resistance Dortmund), a right-wing political group that has been banned by the German government. One of the men photographed carrying the banner was already known to police due to previous involvement in neo-Nazi activities at football matches and may face criminal charges. The board members of Borussia Dortmund and the official fan clubs have issued statements distancing themselves from the political affiliations expressed and have promised to work with all fans' groups to make sure that such events will not be repeated.
Fans' representatives have since revealed that this right-wing political activity comes as no surprise to them and that they will continue to do their utmost to prevent the infiltration of various fan clubs by the neo-Nazi organisations. Sadly the club had already been forced to issue another official apology in March this year, this time as a result of homophobic banners on display at last season's home game against Bremen. Recent reserve matches have also been attended by groups wearing Borussen Front clothing, actively representing a right-wing hooligan movement that was active in the 1980s and has since been banned from the Signal Iduna Park.
It is to be hoped that the swift action of police, club and fans will have a positive effect and that the supporters in the South Stand will choose to actively oppose further expressions of intolerance, racism and violence in their midst. In the words of the fans' organisation: "Let's show solidarity and make it clear that we do not share these views and that we will not let these people abuse our football for their political purposes." John van Laer