A Hertha BSC promotional action drew criticism from administrators in Berlin's Charlottenburg district on Wednesday.
Germany's "alte dame" defended their right to hype up residents in the country's capital for "derby day".
German football lovers could hardly be more excited for Friday evening's showdown in "Dickes B". Hertha BSC gets set to host red-hot cross-town rivals 1. FC Union Berlin in the third meeting of the two sides in Germany's top flight.
The current form of underdogs Union, combined with a string of unconvincing performances from favored Hertha render the fixture quite the tantalizing option for German football enthusiasts. Missing its fans, Hertha engaged in a bit of stealth. The hosting club sent out thousands of Hertha flags to its members and encouraged them to plant them in public places around the city's twelve districts.
Officials in Hertha's home district of Charlottenburg were not amused. The Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorfer city councillor for public order threatened action against both the club and the agency hired to distribute the flags. As Arne Herz (CDU) explained to the Berliner Morgenpost, "If we do nothing against Hertha, Coca-Cola might want to come up tomorrow and set up its Christmas truck."
Germany's capital maintains a zero-tolerance policy for such marketing efforts. Public land may not be used for advertising or promotional efforts. The Hertha flags lining the Berliner streets and parks thus constitute a violation that necessitates a fine.
Marcus Jung, Hertha's head of communication and media, acknowledged that the club knew that it might be sanctioned. Hertha nevertheless felt compelled to proceed anyway.
"We're playing the derby without spectators," Jung explained, "We wanted to create a bit of derby atmosphere, a bit of derby fever. If we were living in normal times, we would have distributed these flags outside the stadium."
Jung indicated that Hertha would likely assume the responsibility for removing the flags, effectively signaling that that there would be no controversy after all.
"Basically, the idea will be that the fans can pick up these flags and join us in front of the television on matchday," Jung said, "Most importantly, we've managed to bring a little bit of joy to Hertha fans during this dismal time. That's all we wanted to do."