Stand up against collective punishment

Slightly more than 50 banners, 61 identified suspects, but 25,000 people must pay. The complete closure of the Südtribüne in Dortmund affected a large number of innocent people, showing that collective punishments are incompatible with the rule of law. Clubs should go to ordinary courts.

In the beginning of February, spectators on the world’s largest standing tribune caused a stir. Before and during the Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and Rasenballsport Leipzig they showed many offensive banners against Leipzig fans and managers, and also shouted some insults.

The sports court of the German Football Association (DFB) condemned Borussia Dortmund to a 100,000€ fine, and the closure of its Südtribüne for their following home game against Wolfsburg.

With this judgement, the DFB sports court once again punished thousands of uninvolved fans. Again, they have to suffer because of a minority that did wrong. Indeed, the DFB has been penalizing breaches of rules such as burning pyrotechnic or showing offensive banners with collective punishment for a few years.

Through collective punishment, the people in power try to initiate self-cleaning processes and a rebellion of the decent within the fan scenes. But the effectiveness of these punishments is questionable. Quite the contrary, innocent excluded fans may jointly solidarize against the DFB creating further conflicts, if they feel condemned for doing nothing wrong.

Borussia Dortmund agreed with the sports court’s decision because the club feared that a rejection could be interpreted as not seeing fault into the fans’ behavior. That Borussia Dortmund wants to dissociate itself from the partially inhuman insults is understandable. But the club is also responsible for its fans and for helping them gain access to the stadium if they have not participated in insulting Leipzig supporters, players or officials.

The club already suggests, that it doubts the verdict is appropriate good for the future. But the people responsible did not draw the right conclusions from what they believe in. Borussia Dortmund’s responsibles would have to object to the verdict and have to fight against this collective punishment, if necessary in a regular court. A club who supports it’s fans in a case like this can benefit. Being known as a club with a tight relationship to its fans means also that the club is able to create a good image and might sell more merchandise products.

To date, no Bundesliga club has yet dared to go to a regular court, but fans of Eintracht Frankfurt did, and won in October 2016. And experts have already weighed in about Dortmund’s situation expressing serious doubts that the verdict would remain in a regular court of law. Clubs should stand up and try the same.

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