HomeA look at the West: Fan violence and right-wing radicalism in Bundesliga stadiums

A look at the West: Fan violence and right-wing radicalism in Bundesliga stadiums

The police in the Federal Republic of Germany were present in and around football stadiums from the early 1950s to ensure order and security. Violence in European football stadiums had been on the rise since the 1970s at the latest. Skinheads and hooligans fought their battles in public in the stands and dominated the atmosphere in the stadiums. The sad climax was the catastrophe at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels during the European Champions Cup final in 1985, when 39 people died in a mass panic triggered by hooligans. Politicians throughout Europe tried to put an end to the violence. The MfS observed the measures taken in the West and a working group analysed the press. The GDR security agency’s assessment of the situation was coloured by its ideology. They interpreted fans’ violent behaviour in GDR stadiums solely as the ‘glorification’ and imitation of Western subculture. In this way, the SED state absolved itself of responsibility with regard to the causes of fan violence.

In West Germany the police tried to combat violence and right-wing radicalism in football stadiums with a two-pronged strategy. They took a tough stance against violence and, at the same time, focused on prevention work to hinder future violence.

The first fatality in Germany was Bremen Werder fan Adrian Maleika in 1982, who was attacked by a right-wing extremist hooligan group from HSV and hit in the head with a rock. After Maleika’s death, the state criminal investigation agencies and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (the domestic intelligence services) focussed even more intently on violence in the football scene. While the violence problem was barely mentioned in public in the GDR, a broad social discourse developed in the Federal Republic and played out in both the media and in academia. Photos and film footage of stadium violence repeatedly reignited the debate.

A policeman with a camera goes about his work at the 1988 European Championship final between the Netherlands and the Soviet Union in Munich. Violent fan groups are in the spotlight after the the Heysel disaster. (1)

Mounted police officers trying to control the crowds at the 1958 derby between Schalke 04 and BVB at Red Earth Stadium in Dortmund. (2)

An overcrowded stadium at the Revier derby in Essen. The police monitored spectator behaviour at the 1959 match between Rot-Weiss Essen and Schalke 04. (3)

The police were present in the stadium during Eintracht Braunschweig’s championship season in 1967. (4)

Young 1. FC Nürnberg fans’ aggressive behaviour attracted attention in 1968 in the Munich stadium on Grünwalder Straße during the club’s Bundesliga match against FC Bayern. The police intervened. (5)

A police officer securing the entrances at Gelsenkirchen Park Stadium in 1981. (6)

Schalke 04 fans being monitored by mounted police on their way to the Rot-Weiss Essen stadium in the summer of 1989. (7)

Violence escalated in the run-up to the regional derby between Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund in the mid-1970s. Groups of fans clashed on the way to the stadium. The photographer has made marks on the print to crop the image. (8)

Violent riots at the Bundesliga match between supporters of Hertha BSC and Hamburger SV in 1973. (9)

The Belgian police cracked down in the run-up to the European Championship final between the DFB team and the Soviet Union in Brussels in 1972. A suspicious German supporter was taken away in a headlock. (10)

Police forces escorted the Eintracht Braunschweig championship team’s motorcade in Braunschweig city centre in the summer of 1967. (11)

Police escorted the championship trophy and Peter Grosser, captain of the German champion team TSV 1860 Munich, at the stadium on Grünwalder Straße in Munich. The club presented the championship trophy to its fans and spectators at the start of the new 1966/67 season in August 1966. (12)

The police managed the approach and arrival of fans to Georg Melches Stadium in the run-up to a Rot-Weiss Essen Bundesliga match, 1969. (13)

Franz Beckenbauer leaving Betzenberg Stadium in Kaiserslautern under police escort. FC Bayern lost 4:7 to 1. FC Kaiserslautern in a historic match in October 1973. (14)

Borussia star Jupp Heynckes walking through a line of police officers after winning the German championship in 1971. (15)

Police guarded the stands in the packed Eintracht fan section at the 1988 DFB Cup final between Eintracht Frankfurt and VfL Bochum in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium. (16)

At the entrance gates to Olympic Stadium in Berlin, police patted down Borussia Dortmund fans who wanted to watch their team’s DFB Cup final against Werder Bremen in May 1989. (17)

DFB Cup final, 1987: The atmosphere in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium was electric as Hamburger SV faced the Stuttgarter Kickers in the final. Hamburg fans threw smoke bombs onto the pitch. (18)

The MfS analysed West German newspaper articles on fan violence in West Germany and Western Europe. These included an article about the Brussels catastrophe at the Heysel Stadium during the 1985 European Cup final between Juventus Turin and Liverpool FC. 39 people died as a result of clashes between hooligan groups from both teams. (19)

View of the back of a Werder fan’s shirt in 1982. The phrase ‘Death and hate to HSV’ referred to the death of Werder fan Adrian Maleika that same year. (20)

A violent fan being carried away by police officers at a Bundesliga match between 1. FC Kaiserslautern and VfB Stuttgart in the early 1980s. (21)

Werder Bremen fans at the funeral of Adrian Maleika. The 16-year-old supporter of the Werder fan club ‘Die Treuen’ (‘The Faithful’) was the victim of an act of violence by Hamburger SV hooligans in 1982. (22)

Borussia Dortmund fans confronted Liverpool FC fans before the 1966 European Cup Winners’ Cup final in Glasgow’s Hampton Park. (23)

Police taking a hooligan into custody during a match between Hamburger SV and the Stuttgarter Kickers at the DFB Cup final 1987 in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium. (24)

Police officers taking away a violent fan on the sidelines of a Bundesliga match between 1. FC Kaiserslautern and Rot-Weiß Oberhausen in 1970. (25)

The Braunschweig police cracking down on rioting Dortmund fans at a Bundesliga match between Eintracht Braunschweig and Borussia Dortmund in November 1976. (26)

Police making arrests in the VfB Stuttgart fan section during fan riots at a Bundesliga match in the summer of 1981. (27)

A police officer grabbed a Saarbrücken fan by his clothes during a second division match between the Stuttgarter Kickers and 1. FC Saarbrücken in September 1979, while another officer tried to talk to him. (28)


1: IMAGO, Sportfoto Rudel

2: Pressebilderdienst Horst Müller GmbH

3: Pressebilderdienst Horst Müller GmbH

4: Stadtarchiv Braunschweig, Archiv Helmut Wesemann, 2 G IX 78/332/280/001

5: IMAGO, Sven Simon

6: Norbert Enker, laif

7: Marga Kingler, Fotoarchiv Ruhr Museum

8: Willi Römer, Bestand WR, Fotoarchiv Ruhr Museum

9: Fotograf unbekannt, PA Mager

10: IMAGO, Sven Simon

11: Stadtarchiv Braunschweig, Archiv Helmut Wesemann, 29a G IX 78/52/2/010

12: IMAGO, Sven Simon

13: Marga Kingler, Fotoarchiv Ruhr Museum

14: IMAGO, Sammy Minkoff

15: IMAGO, Ferdi Hartung

16: IMAGO, Kicker,Eissner, Liedel

17: IMAGO, Kicker, Eissner, Liedel

18: IMAGO, Ferdi Hartung

19: Bundesarchiv, MfS SED KL 2702 Bild 43 

20: Zentrum deutsche Sportgeschichte Berlin-Brandenburg e.V., Fotograf unbekannt

21: IMAGO, Sportfoto Rudel

22: IMAGO, Sven Simon

23: Pressebilderdienst Horst Müller GmbH

24: IMAGO, Sportfoto Rudel

25: IMAGO, Ferdi Hartung

26: IMAGO, Rust

27: IMAGO, Pressefoto Baumann

28: IMAGO, Pressefoto Baumann