German FA to refrain from collective fan sanctions
BERLIN (Reuters) - The German Football Association will no longer issue sanctions against clubs that affect fans collectively as it looks to open a dialogue with so-called ultra fan groups over stadium safety, the association said.
Germany, which has the world's highest attendance per match in its Bundesliga, with 42,000 spectators per game, saw extensive crowd trouble on Sunday in Hertha Berlin's victory at Hansa Rostock in the German Cup first round.
Fans threw flares and fireworks at each other and torched banners and plastic seating. The referee was forced to interrupt the game twice, including once for 15 minutes, as the game teetered on the brink of abandonment.
Last season, Borussia Dortmund's 25,000-capacity south stand was closed for one match and the club forced to pay 100,000 euros as part of sanctions for fan trouble during a league match against RB Leipzig. Several other clubs have been given similar sanctions.
With the Bundesliga season starting in two days, the football association said its disciplinary body, which often issues sanctions against clubs that include closing a home stand or the entire stadium, will no longer impose such sanctions.
"We do not want for this period of time to issue sanctions such as blocking stands, exclusion of part of the stadium or complete `ghost matches'", the football association's chief president, Reinhard Grindel, said in a statement on Wednesday.
Grindel said a dialogue with fan groups has begun but so far ultras had yet to accept an invitation.
"The fan representatives at those talks agreed to renew the invitation for the Ultras representatives," Grindel said.
"We welcome that. We want to go jointly down a path which will lead to transparent and fair measures to protect the positive stadium experience."
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann)