Dispute over police costs: international match in Bremen as a signal of rapprochement?

Status: 01/31/2023 11:12 a.m

Because of the dispute over police costs in high-risk games in the Bundesliga, the national team has not made a guest appearance in Bremen since 2012. Now there are many indications that the DFB team will return there. Does that have an impact on the argument?

On Friday (01/27/23) the German Football Association (DFB) published the first international match dates for 2023: The national team will meet Peru in Mainz on March 25, three days later they will face Belgium in Cologne. Contrary to expectations, no further dates and locations were initially mentioned. In some cases, contract details still need to be clarified with the stadium operators.

It is surprising that the DFB is apparently also talking about an international match in Bremen’s Weser Stadium. The last time the DFB team played in Bremen was in the 2-1 draw against France on February 29, 2012. A game against Gibraltar that was planned for November 14, 2014 was withdrawn from the city without further ado.

Long lawsuit over police costs

The reason for this was the dispute over the costs of police operations relating to high-risk games in the Bundesliga. The state of Bremen, led by Interior Senator Mäurer, demanded that the DFL pay for the additional expenses compared to “normal” Bundesliga games.

A long legal dispute followed, in which the Federal Administrative Court in March 2019 classified the Bremen procedure as legal in the last instance. The case is now even occupying the Federal Constitutional Court. The league has filed a constitutional complaint in Karlsruhe about the fee notices from Bremen.

Secret meeting between Neuendorf and Mäurer

The DFB, not directly involved in the dispute, always stood firmly on the side of the league. But this loyalty to the Nibelungen seems to be over now. According to information from the WDR magazine Sport inside there was already a confidential meeting between DFB President Bernd Neuendorf and Bremen’s Senator for the Interior Ulrich Mäurer on October 27, 2022. The press office of the Bremen Senate’s interior administration confirmed the meeting, but did not want to give any information about the content of the conversation. They have agreed to remain silent.

The initiative for the conversation, it is said, came from Neuendorf. The DFB President is steering a different course than his predecessors. In the summer of 2020, the DFB informed the Frankfurter Rundschau that it was “Unchanged position of the entire DFB presidium that no international matches are awarded in a federal state in which there is a dispute about the reimbursement of police costs”. Last year, the DFB left an inquiry from Sport inside unanswered as to whether this view had changed in the meantime – that was before Neuendorf was elected in March.

DFL has paid a total of 1.95 million so far

Since 2015, the Bremen Interior Authority has been sending notices of fees for the additional costs of high-risk games to the DFL, where more than 1,000 police officers are deployed instead of the usual 250 to 350. These were Bremen home games against Hamburger SV, Hansa Rostock, Hannover 96, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Eintracht Frankfurt, where the police assessed the danger as very high.

According to current documents, the Sport inside are available, the DFL has so far been billed fees totaling 2.67 million euros – an average of 334,000 euros per high-risk game. The DFL has so far transferred 1.95 million euros to the state of Bremen – but has always emphasized that it is doing so with reservations. Until the Federal Constitutional Court has ruled on the league’s constitutional complaint. The DFL only made the last payment of 449,000 euros on December 21, 2022. Payments are still outstanding for two notices.

Neuendorf and Mäurer get along well

The fact that the DFB is now giving up its position and is considering awarding an international match to Bremen for the first time can be understood as a sign of rapprochement. Neuendorf is said to have been massively disturbed by the fact that the conflict between the DFL and the state of Bremen proceeded in this way.

It probably also helped that Neuendorf was active as a politician for the SPD for many years, including as State Secretary in the Ministry for Family, Children, Youth, Culture and Sport in North Rhine-Westphalia. The two comrades got along very well when they met in October and immediately started using the first name, they say.

In Bremen they are now hoping that the rapprochement on the part of the DFB could also trigger a rethink at the DFL. However, a DFL spokesman emphasized to Hessischer Rundfunk last Friday that nothing had changed in the association’s position: “The DFL’s view on this subject is well known.”

After the Federal Administrative Court confirmed Bremen’s view in 2019, Mäurer tried to find an arrangement with the DFL. Discussions with the CEO Christian Seifert and his successor Donata Hopfen, who has since been deposed, were fruitless.

Mäurer has fund solution in mind

The interim managing directors Axel Hellmann and Oliver Leki are now working for the DFL. At the request of Sport inside from the office of the Bremen Senator for the Interior, contact is currently not planned: “We are waiting for the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court as to whether it will accept and process the case or sort out the constitutional complaint without dealing with the content.”

Ulrich Mäurer assumes the latter – then he wants to speak to the DFL immediately. He still has an unbureaucratic fund solution in mind: Instead of individual fee notifications, the DFL would pay 30 million euros into a pot that would be divided among the countries affected by high-risk games.