While devoted Bundesliga ultras still find themselves shut out of stadiums, protest banners adorning the empty seats remain a regular occurrence.
After taking some time to consider the UEFA Champions' League reforms first proposed in January, the biggest German fan alliance took a stance on Saturday.
|Photo: Steffen Prößdorf, CC BY-SA 4.0|
In a European footballing landscape where the threat of the so-called European Super League always looms large, UEFA issued what was largely considered a compromise proposal for future reform of the Champions League approximately two months ago. UEFA and the European Club Association worked together to draft a "Swiss Model" that would govern the UCL from 2024 onwards.
In essence, the reform would abolish the current Champions' League group stage format. Instead of separate groups, the 36 (up from 32) participants would advance to the knockouts based on a league table. Teams would play ten matches against seeded opponents over the course of the autumn, and the top eight would automatically advance to the round-of-16. A playoff system involving the 16 teams below the top eight would determine the rest of the round-of-16 field.
This counts as a compromise as larger clubs, such as Germany's Bayern München, would get more more matches against more competitive opponents. Ten autumn fixtures without repetition also means a greater variety of games for all fan bases and helps ensure that (unlike the current system) there will not be a significant number of meaningless matches late in the competition. Given that there are some advantages to the new system, it was unclear which side German fan societies would pick.
In the final analysis, the Bundesrepublik's biggest fan society ("Unsere Kurve") concluded that the proposed reforms would benefit the larger clubs disproportionately. A statement from the organization first highlights the differences currently paid to UCL, UEL, and non-European qualifying clubs, then unequivocally states that there is nothing in the present reforms that would alter this trajectory.
As "Unsere Kurve" correctly points out, non-Europe qualifying clubs across the continent collectively claimed €130 million in solidarity funds while Bayern individually pocketed €117 million during their 2019/20 Champions' League winning campaign.
A banner visible during Borussia Dortmund's Tuesday UCL fixture against Sevilla and Saturday's home league match against Hertha BSC read "stop UCL reforms". The local ultra group responsible for this was the BVB's Südtribüne Society.
"Unsure Kurve" doesn't necessarily condemn the reforms entirely, but does make specific demands of the process. The German alliance insists that more matchdays not be added to the UCL calendar, the maintenance of UCL qualification places based on the previous seasons performance, and guarantees that actual league champions will not be neglected in favor of the UEFA coefficient.
The German group also made clear that it expected the DFL to make it's position on the reforms clear without too long a delay's. The positions of "Unsure Kurve" deliberately mirror the specific demands of the pan-European Football Supporters Europe (FSE) fan initiative.