After a delay of over two years, the 27th annual conference of German Fan Project Consortiums finally covered this week in the German city of Mainz.
While funding for the charitable work of local fan societies has been secured for another 18 months, FSV Mainz 05 chairman spoke of concern for the future of the footballing volunteerism institution amid low attendance rates.
Some 160 delegates representing 64 nationwide German football Fan Projects are currently huddled in the Palatinate ahead of the second day of their long delayed annual conference. Under the motto "Football remains important", the delegates will be attending and hosting seminars on the shifting state of volunteerism and social welfare work in pandemic times.
Representatives from 35 of the 36 Bundesliga clubs currently contesting the top two footballing tiers are present, as are a strong cohort of third tier representatives. In the most important piece of business on the agenda, delegates were pleased to report that DFB funds for all Fan Projects in all tiers had been secured through the end of 2022.
In addition to the funds raised directly by members, the DFB and DFL provide up to €150,000 in matching funds for charitably-oriented Fan Projects. Germany's public sector also chips in with its own matching funds. As is the case in many parts of Europe, local football volunteer groups are considered civil society organizations and are great sources of civic pride.
The Projects certainly had no difficulties in finding local public welfare work during the pandemic. Robust local volunteer efforts were needed right from the start. Particularly in the early days of lockdown, vulnerable elderly citizens needed immediate assistance in procuring groceries and medicine. Football Fan Projects across the Bundesrepublik marshaled resources in order to assist with this effort.
Given how important the spirit of football volunteerism is for Germans, the funding status of the Fan Projects was never in considerable doubt. FSV Mainz 05 chairman Stefan Hofmann nevertheless acknowledged the serious financial strain that German clubs operate under in his welcoming remarks.
Hofmann's club has had significant difficulty filling its own seats, as evidenced by poor attendance figures in round one and round three of the current Bundesliga campaign. Neither fixture came close to selling out.
"The capacity is not being utilized," Hofmann remarked when opening the conference, "Many are disappointed with how football has changed, others still shy away from mass events. The return of fans will not happen overnight. The pandemic has once again placed football under pressure and scrutiny."