The Kein Zwanni campaign for affordable tickets review pt.1
Just about three quarters of a year ago, the organisation "Kein Zwanni-Fußball muss bezahlbar sein" (No €20 – football has to be affordable) was founded in reaction to an unacceptable top match surplus at the derby in Gelsenkirchen. Within three nicely chaotic weeks full of hectic, hopes and regrettably also disappointments a protest was organized that for the first time in Bundesliga history went beyond banners in stadia and acoustic expressions of resentment: The organized boycott of a game. It was clear from the beginning that this would be no singular action. To stop the development of entry fees that is problematic for the fans and in a long term perspective for football itself it needs time and persistency. Time for a review.
To be able to judge the status achieved by now, I want to look back to the beginnings, to explain the spirit of the action and to avoid possible misunderstandings.
As mentioned before, the derby boycott had to be organised from scratch under immense time pressure. To get publicly known it needed a catchy slogan. A motto that is easily understood and remembered. That's how we came up with “Kein Zwanni für nen Steher” (No €20 for a standing ticket). That way we had a direct connection to the enormous prices at the derby. One had almost got used to immense prices for seats – but to cross the “Zwanni” (€20) line for a standing ticket was something new entirely. A visible sign that something had run our of rudder. The “nen” was a fitting grammatically incorrect phrase from the Ruhrpott dialect. Because it was about the derby, the Ruhrpott-classic. And last the “Steher” is a regular word among fans for a standing ticket. That sounds less sterile shows a connection to the fans.
The motto was alright for the start and it worked well. After the match it became obvious, that this motto could cause misunderstandings. The action should not only be about prices of standing tickets and the major part of fans on the seats should not be excluded. It was also not about a magical and strict line of €20 that has to be accepted by clubs to make everybody happy. This birth defect was corrected by renaming the campaign to “Kein Zwanni – Fußball muss bezahlbar sein” (No €20 – football has to be affordable). That kept up the slogan of the beginnning but also indicates the broader approach of the campaign.
The sharpest weapon, but also the most painful to use. It means staying away from a match of your own club, being outside the stadium while the team is fighting for points inside. But nothing shows the discontent with the ticket price hike better than empty places and tickets remaining unsold – and nothing hits the clubs harder than bad publicity and profits not being made. In English boards the amazement and even admiration for the German fans daring to take this step was widely expressed. But this weapon only works if the boycott is supported by most of the supporters. It needs a wide base. A boycott can not be commanded, if it wants to be successful. The derby boycott emerged from the anger of individual supporter groups that had planned a silent boycott already. In discussions about the upcoming derby it was heard many times that the prices were exorbitant and the individuals fans or fan clubs were thinking about staying at home. So the boycott was there already.
It was the main concern to raise awareness and make it publicly known and to show all fans that they were not alone with their anger. This shows the dilemma and difficulties of fighting for the interests of fans. The attendances in Bundesliga are bigger than ever and the numbers of fans are correspondingly big, but this is a huge mass of different individuals and thus is rather lethargic. “Kein Zwanni” tries to bundle the different views on the ticket price hike and give them a platform. So the campaign needs the support and collaboration of fans. Everybody can contribute his share. May it be an individual e-mail or in the name of his fan-club if prices at a match surpass the pain barrier. Only to be able to conclude an atmospheric picture out of many individual opinions can help a lot. “Kein Zwanni” can not be dictated from the top but has to remain a grassroots movement.
It was explained before, that the goals of the campaign go beyond the plump demand of standing tickets cheaper than €20. One of the main goals was to carry the campaign beyond Dortmund into other fan scenes. It should not be necessary to explain this any further. Even though you might be opponents during the 90 minutes of a football match the pricing problem concerns all fans in the same way and so the collaboration is a logical step. The broader the campaign would be, the bigger are the chances for a success. It was clear from the start that it could only have success in the long run if it was carried by a basis from different clubs.
Additionally there are several concrete demands concerning different aspects of the pricing policy. Basically pricing should should allow football to remain a sport of the people. It is clear that “football for everybody” might not be realistic, because the financial means of fans are very diverse. But nonetheless it must be possible to find a pricing structure that allows young, financially weak fans to visit games. Even though some of the managers of the clubs may sing the song of the fantastic English Premier League, for supporters that is rather a nightmare come true. Systematically lower income classes were excluded from the stadia, the average attendance age at some grounds is above 40 years – and rising. Both sides will lose in the end. The fans that used to visit the stadiums and today are only able to watch the matches at their local pub. The Premier League will feel the effect in a few years time.
A fair pricing policy also involves the additional charges for “top matches”, the different price categories and the long term price planning. Especially problematic about the top match surcharges is that they also concern away fans. Here the supporters of clubs with many travelling fans are being systematically milked, no matter if it is a real top match or just another regular Bundesliga match. That leads to some supporters being charged a surplus at almost no game while others have to pay extra on a regular basis. On top of that after some stadium renovations or reshaped pricing categories to maximize profits the portion of the affordable tickets has become smaller and smaller so that only a little share of the tickets are available in the affordable categories. That's a fig leaf policy that is hard to reverse but it must at least be stopped. Just like the practice of many clubs to keep the prices adjustable so as a supporter you get to know the exact price of a match only a few weeks in advance.
Part II of the article will tell you how far the campaign has come in achieving the goals it set itself.