By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Watzke and DFL chief continue to call for dialogue amid escalating protests

Ahead of another weekend in which widespread fan protests appear set to disrupt and delay matches in Germany's top two footballing flights, 1. FC Köln have released a letter declaring the club's full support for a re-vote of the December-sanctioned DFL licensing deal. 

Other Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga clubs are taking a similar stance. Proponents of the measure - notably DFL supervisory board chairmen Hans Joachim Watzke and DFL managing director Steffen Merkel - continue to call for dialogue between the league body and fan groups. 

Germany's main sporting tabloid claims to know which way all 36 clubs voted in December's secret ballot. The sticking point continues to be whether or not Hannover 96 boss Martin Kind voted for the measure against his club's instructions. 
Last night's match-day 22 curtain raiser in the German Bundesliga saw disruptive protests continue to interrupt proceedings on the pitch. FC Köln supporters threw chocolate coins, rubber pellets, and tennis balls onto the field during the Köln-hosted top tier encounter against Bremen. Köln fans and other German ultra groups have now introduced a new facet to their protests, sending remote-controlled cars onto the playing surface in order to prevent games from proceeding. Fans demand - at the very least - transparency with regard to which 24 of the 36 clubs sanctioned the deal in December.

The two 2. Bundesliga matches taking place last night - Hertha BSC's hosting of 1. FC Magdeburg and Hannover 96's home match against SpVgg Greuther Fürth - featured similar protests. Both matches were delayed. In Hannover's case, abandonment was considered. German ultra groups - now that only one private equity firm remains from an original trio negotiating with the DFL over a €1 billion stake in a new licensing deal - sense that complete victory in their quest to get the DFL to abandon the idea isn't far away.

A number of German clubs have already called for a re-vote of the measure. Köln - known to be against investor involvement from the very beginning - issued a statement on Thursday evening in which the cathedral city side confirmed that it had submitted a formal application to the DFL calling for a new vote. Other clubs - including some that are thought to have voted for the measure - have taken a similar stance.

Thus far, six clubs have declared full support for a fresh vote. Eight have positioned themselves firmly against. Two more have issued neutral statements.The position of the deal's intellectual godfather and most ardent proponent (BVB boss Hans-Joachim Watzke) continues to be a call for dialogue with the fan groups. DFL manager Steffen Merkel joined Watzke in tendering such an offer.

"I consider the protests to be legitimate," Keller is quoted as saying by Germany's Kicker Magazine, "We take the concerns and questions of the fans seriously. We're seeking to lead a dialogue with the fans. Our aim is to make things clearer in the coming days and weeks. That's why we made an offer of talks to the organized fan scenes last week, which has not yet been accepted."

"We must enter into dialogue as quickly as possible," Watzke added in an interview with Germany's 'Sport Bild' tabloid on Thursday, "At this point, I ask the fan groups not to escalate matters any further! Our offer of talks stands, we are of course all prepared to hold these talks. We need additional funds in order to remain competitive and continue to keep the [German] stadium experience affordable."

"The new investor will have zero influence with us," Watzke continued, "Zero! There will be no new kick-off times or anything like that. We need them for international marketing. Their job is to help us reach fans around the world better. They have accepted all our "red lines" and don't want to reform our football scene in the slightest!"

The very tabloid with which Watzke conducted his interview purports to know how all 36 clubs voted. Sport Bild claims Union Berlin, SC Freiburg, Köln, Hertha Berlin, Fortuna Düsseldorf, FC St. Pauli, FC Kaiserslautern, FC Magdeburg, FC Nürnberg, and Eintracht Braunschweig all voted against the investor negotiations. Abstentions from FC Augsburg and VfL Osnabrück enabled the measure to obtain the two-thirds majority.

The tabloid's list amounts to guess work based on statements from the clubs. A major point of contention for Bundesliga fans continues to be whether or not Hannover 96 President Martin Kind - a reviled figure who once sought a personal exception to 50+1 - voted for the measure in spite of the fact that his club's supervisory board instructed him not to.

Watzke addressed this issue in his interview. His nonchalant response isn't likely to appease the discontented German footballing fan scene. The BVB boss brushed off talk of Kind and offered only vague general assertions about the deal itself.

"I warn fans against demonizing secret ballots," Watzke said, "I don't know how Martin Kind voted. No one does. It doesn't matter as we're not selling our values. We're not selling ourselves to an investment partner. We just need to reform the relationship [with investors]."

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