Telly off, stadium on! gaining traction
14 November ~ The German university town of Göttingen does not enjoy a reputation as a footballing hotbed. But some fans are trying to change that. The local club, SCG, were founder members of the 2 Bundesliga Nord in 1974 but declined after relegation seven years later, culminating in insolvency in September 2003. SCG 05 were removed from the register of football clubs but the youth teams continued to play, merging with local team RSV Geismar in 2005 to ensure that a senior team continued in Göttingen, before reclaiming the old name and history in 2012.
SCG 05 now play in the Oberliga Niedersachsen, the fifth tier, in front of relatively good crowds of between 300 and 400. However, the fact that the town's population of 110,000 is not reflected in attendance figures will come as no surprise to followers of non-League football in England or Germany. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that other clubs at this level rarely bring more than a handful of travelling supporters.
The difference in Göttingen is that the fans there have started an initiative to try and raise awareness about local football and increase the level of interest among the populace. The Glotze aus, Stadion an! (Telly off, stadium on!) campaign began as an attempt to raise the profile of SCG 05 at the local university. While realising that most students will already have "their" team elsewhere in Germany, the idea was to encourage them to support the local club during term-time by distributing flyers at student parties and lecture theatres.
This initial aim developed into publicising the existence of football outside of the Sky broadcasts of Bundesliga matches in the town's bars, and get people talking. Crowds may not have risen appreciably in Göttingen yet but not even the most optimistic supporters expected an immediate increase. What has been surprising is the level of interest from other clubs and those involved are pleased with the general reaction so far.
The campaign is seeing the first positive results in the form of banners and information stands appearing at other lower-league grounds. Fans of TeBe Berlin, another former top-flight club to have slipped down the leagues in recent years, are supporting the initiative at their club's games in the Berlin-Liga, while players from TSV Havelse carried the GASA banner onto the pitch before a Regionalliga game in October.
The campaign is starting to move towards the wider goal of providing common ground to all fan groups trying to resist the rampant commercialisation of professional football: the Aachen supporters association Rettet Alemannia (Save Alemannia) is one group that is looking to work with GASA in the future as they attempt to pull their club back from the brink of financial disaster.
Whether this will have any tangible effect remains to be seen, but with over 40 interested clubs already listed on the GASA blog, it will be interesting to see whether the campaign can build up enough momentum to challenge the situation and bring about change for the better in German non-League football. John Van Laer