On Saturday, Bayern Munich’s game at Hoffenheim was called to a temporary halt as the Bayern ultras unfurled a banner branding the Hoffenheim owner Dietmar Hopp a “son of a wh*re”.
Hoffenheim and Bayern players stood together
As the ultras refused to clear the banner, under the UEFA three-step protocol employed by the German officials, the referee had no choice but to call a halt to the game until the fans stopped their protest.
The Bayern Munich players, manager Hansi Flick and even some board members including the likes of Sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic and Oliver Kahn pleaded with the fans to remove the banner. After around 20 minutes, the protests eventually stopped and the players came back out.
Only, they didn’t come back out with the intention of playing. As the game was already settled with the score sat at 6-0 in favour of the away side, the two sides agreed not to attempt to score any more goals.
When they came back out, both sets of players stood in the middle of the field and simply passed the ball between them for the last 13 minutes of the game – just to ride out the clock.
After the final whistle, the Bayern players and staff did not go to thank their fans as they normally would. Instead, all of the Bayern Munich players and managing director Karl-Heinz Rummenigge stood with the Hoffenheim team and owner Hopp in a show of solidarity.
Why do German fans hate Hopp so much?
Essentially for the same reasons they all hate RB Leipzig – because they bought their place in Bundesliga. When Dietmar Hopp bought Hoffenheim in 2000, they were little more than a village football club playing in the fifth tier of German football.
However, by the year 2008, Hopp had sunk hundreds of millions into the club and they managed to attain promotion to the Bundesliga – much to the annoyance of the fans.
The other main reason he is so sorely hated is because Hopp is one of three exceptions to the fabled 50+1 rule in German football. The rule, which means that members (fans) must hold the majority of voting rights in every club – it was originally introduced in 1998 as a replacement for the old rule which banned private ownership completely.
It allows German football to hang on to their heritage of being fan-run football clubs, while still being able to have enough funds to compete with the rest of Europe. There are three Bundesliga clubs who are exempt from the rule – Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg, and Hoffenheim.
Leverkusen were set up in 1904 by employees of Pharmaceutical company Bayer. Given that their entire heritage relies on the company Bayer – they were allowed to be excluded from the rule. The same goes for Wolfsburg, who were founded in 1945 by company employees at Volkswagen – who literally built the city of Wolfsburg.
The rules for exemption are determined by whether or not a person or entity have held a financial interest in the club for upwards of 20 years – if that is the case, you are entitled to apply for an exemption.
In December 2014, this is what Dietmar Hopp did, and his request was granted – much to the annoyance of fans around the country who saw the move as an affront to the German footballing heritage.
The other main issue the fans have at the moment is with the DFB – the German football federation. For years now, instead of punishing individuals who break the rules at football grounds, the DFB have issued collective punishments that hurt the whole fan base – as you would expect, the fans hate this.
In 2017, they issued a statement pledging to end the collective punishments. However, they totally disregarded that and continued to issue them. Just as one example, Borussia Dortmund fans have been handed a two-year ban from attending away games at Hoffenheim after they displayed a banner showing Hopp in a crosshair…
That’s why the Bayern Munich protest was not just a flash in the pan. We saw protests like this happening around the country – with Union Berlin and Dortmund fans doing something similar to the Bayern ultras. The protests have clearly had an impact and, as such, you can expect them to continue.
What has Bayern Boss Hansi Flick had to say on the issue?
Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick was visibly irritated by events in the away end at Hoffenheim this weekend and made no bones about his fury towards his own club’s fans. Today, he spoke to the media ahead of Bayern’s trip to Schalke in the DFB-Pokal this week.
“My team’s sporting performance on Saturday was spoiled by some of our own fans,” said Flick. “You can’t approve of that. Our very good performance was not recognized by these few anarchists. Now I just want to focus on football.
“Today, I would not have reacted differently to Saturday. I did that and I would do it again. I hope tomorrow it doesn’t come to that again. I want to play football and in the end, the better team should win”
That response was probably a lot calmer and lot more level-headed than he was when he spoke about the issue straight after the game on Saturday. Flick, who was Hoffenheim manager from 2000-2005, was scathing with his club’s fans.
“That has nothing to do with football. It can’t continue like this. It’s time to act. We need to stand together and cannot condone it,” ranted Flick.
“I grew up here and I’ve known Dietmar Hopp for over 20 years. I’m sorry for him as he’s done so much for society. Every single one of these troublemakers probably has someone in their family who has profited from what Dietmar Hopp has done – when it comes to cancer research, for example.
“We need to stand together and fight these troublemakers, these idiots. It’s a dark day for FC Bayern. Both clubs made a very big statement today.”
Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was equally as frustrated with the incident and told media of his shame.
“I’m deeply embarrassed, particularly for Dietmar Hopp. Football reared its ugly head. The moment has come for the whole of German football to stand together. For too long we’ve turned a blind eye to what’s been going on in the stands.
“After what happened today we need to rethink things and we need to fight it with everything we have. We filmed everything and will come down heavily on our fans and bring them to justice. These people have no place in football stadiums.”