Dortmund fans stage protest against rising ticket prices
Supporters throw tennis balls on pitch and boycott part of match
Protest comes days after Liverpool fans staged a walkout against prices
Tennis balls aren’t usually found on a football pitch – but it was a whole new ball game during Stuttgart and Borussia Dortmund’s German Cup quarterfinal Tuesday.
Players had to become ball-boys after Dortmund supporters threw the balls onto the field and boycotted the first 20 minutes of the match at Stuttgart’s Mercedes-Benz Arena in protest at rising ticket prices.
The throwing of tennis balls is said to be ironic in Germany as nationals use the expression “great tennis” to describe something impressive.
Dortmund fans may have seen their side score a 3-1 victory but they paid for the privilege with a quarter of the tickets costing as much as €70 ($78.80), while the cheapest seats were €38.50 ($43.40), with standing tickets priced at €19.50 ($22).
A Dortmund supporters’ group unfurled a banner inside Stuttgart’s stadium reading “Fussball muss bezahlbar sein” – “Football must be affordable.”
Then fans threw the tennis balls onto the pitch following the boycott. The referee had to suspend the game so players could help remove them.
“We have to make clubs aware that enough is enough,” Marc Quambusch, spokesman of the “Kein Zwanni” group that organized the protest, told CNN.
“Many supporters joined us and it made for good viewing on the television channels. It’s been recognized all over Germany and all over the world. We’ve had news coverage as far as Argentina, it’s been great.
“But it’s a permanent conflict. It was a victory for us with public opinion and awareness, but we have to do this again and again and again or we won’t achieve victory.”
Stuttgart said in a statement posted on its Facebook page ahead of the match that ticket prices are “as far as the [club] is concerned appropriate for the significance of the game” and that “the prices were communicated to [Dortmund] ahead of the ticket sale.”
Despite the interruption from the protest, goals from Marco Reus, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan – with Lukas Rupp scoring for Stuttgart – helped Dortmund progress to its 13th German Cup semifinal.
“Under the difficult conditions and given the situation we were facing, we put in an almost perfect performance – with a perfect result,” coach Thomas Tuchel told the club’s official website.
The Dortmund protest comes just days after Liverpool supporters staged a walkout during their Premier League match against Sunderland also because of a ticket price hike.
Around 10,000 fans reportedly left Anfield in the 77th minute of the match Saturday after the club introduced a new £77 ($111.80) ticket last week.
Despite leading 2-0 at that point, Liverpool – managed by former Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp – went on to draw 2-2 with Sunderland.
Liverpool canceled a live Q&A session with chief executive Ian Ayre to discuss the club’s new ticket pricing following the walkout.
“Dortmund and Liverpool are very similar clubs, especially when it comes to the cities,” Quambusch said. “The people are very similar and we at Dortmund were all delighted with the Liverpool fans’ protest. We really have solidarity with them.”
Arsenal fans, meanwhile, recently complained about plans to introduce a surcharge for season ticket holders who attend the European Champions League game against Barcelona this month – with the English club then going back on the idea.
Supporters of Spanish side Atletico Madrid are also reportedly planning a protest against ticket prices by choosing not to attend the away game at Getafe Sunday where tickets cost around $56.30.
“It should be a European movement as we all have the same thing in common – we all want to see good football,” Quambusch added.
“Of course, good football players have to have their wages, but the tickets are so much money that we can’t afford to go to games.
“Football is a people’s game. It’s about bringing people together and getting them talking about football – and not putting money in the pockets of millionaires.”
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