In a major victory for fans in the German third tier, the governing body of the 3. Liga has instructed the DFB to remove Monday night fixtures from the new media rights contract from season 2023/24. This step has been taken following a major consultation and a binding vote at last week’s meeting of club representatives and it represents a victory for fans across the league who had campaigned against the practice.
At the committee meeting, a binding majority of eleven of the 20 third division clubs had voted against the continuation of Monday matches beyond the 2022/2023 season. Seven clubs spoke in favour and two clubs abstained from the vote.
The holding company of the German football federation, the DFB GmbH & Co. KG who is responsible for the tender bidding process of the media rights contract for Germany’s third tier and the current media contract which runs until the end of next season contract currently includes a fixed matchday format with one match on a Friday evening, six matches on Saturday lunchtime, two matches on Sundays and one match on Monday, runs until the end of the 2022/2023 season.
However, Monday night matches have been an unwelcome feature of the fixture calendar for many years with fans across the three top leagues in Germany and had led to widespread protests. The practice of Monday night matches has been highly unpopular with fans having to attend Monday nights, especially for away games because it meant often having to take time off work and travelling long distances at unsociable hours.
Widespread fan protests over the years have included placards and banners across grounds. In a match between Borussia Dortmund and Stuttgart, fans showed their animosity towards the practice by throwing tennis balls onto the pitch. At Frankfurt’s Commerzbank Arena, fans interrupted play in a game between Eintracht and RB Leipzig by throwing rolls of toilet paper from behind the goal. Other fan protests included atmosphere boycotts in which the fans were silent for large parts of the games to make the sentiment heard by the clubs.
Whilst the Bundesliga and second-tier, the 2. Liga, banned Monday night games from the 20-21 season the unpopular matches continued despite fan protests in the third tier.
The end of Monday night matches represents a success for fan organisation Unsere Kurve which is a coalition of fan clubs and representatives. Unsere Kurve led an organised protest across the three leagues. Jochen Grotepass, a spokesman for campaign group “Unsere Kurve” (Our Terrace) explained the significance of the fan’s victory in a DPA interview ‘It’s not just about Monday games in the Bundesliga, but in the second and third-tier too. And all league games during the week that we wanted the practice of Monday matches stopped and we welcome this decision”.
This week’s vote in the managing committee has now granted fans in the 3. Liga the desired outcome; Tom Eilers, chairman of the 3. Liga’s managing Committee, himself a former defender with Darmstadt 98 and FSV Mainz, commented “We have as a committee now complied with the sentiments of the fans and made our recommendation to the DFB to remove Monday games from the fixture list. Now the task is to optimise the matchday arrangements at the weekends to present the 3. Liga in the best possible way for all involved”.
Dr Holger Blask, managing director of marketing and sales at the DFB’s marketing arm explained that the consultation process had taken all opinions into account: “The decision-making process in the 3rd tier was preceded by a broad-based participation process on the initiative of the committee”. Blask further “In addition to the DFB’s specialist departments, representatives from the fan scene including fan clubs were also involved in the consultation”.
Blask elaborated that the opinions of media companies were also taken into consideration; “After an initial consultation with the TV companies, the DFB first presented the facts to the clubs of the 3. Liga, their fan representatives and fan representatives who had been nominated by the fan organisations, in the course of the hearing, fan representatives and DFB experts discussed their experiences with the previous matchday format and their wishes for a future format before concluding to remove Monday night matches from the schedule”.
In addition, in January the DFB was reported by Kicker to have commissioned the opinion research institute YouGov to conduct independent, representative market research on the 3. Liga and its possible kick-off times. According to the German sports magazine in parallel, most of the clubs in the league conducted their participation formats involving their committees, fans, partners and sponsors.
Monday night matches started in Germany in season 1992/93 and media companies used Monday night games to improve schedules however with mixed results. Monday night games have largely proven a commercial flop, an analysis of the practice showed that Monday night matches attracted a 12.5% drop in match attendances.
The new media contract in the 3. Liga will cover four years and is lined-up to start during the summer and the award process should be completed by the beginning of the autumn this year.
No details were given of the voting of individual clubs however 1. FC Magdeburg, FSV Zwickau and Hallescher FC had all campaigned against Monday night matches according to an MDR TV report and 1.FC Kaiserslautern, VFL Osnabrück, Eintracht Braunschweig, SV Meppen, 1.FC Saarbrücken and MSV Duisburg all released statements in favour of the ban.
No details were given of how Borussia Dortmund, whose U23 team participate alongside the second team of SC Freiburg in the third tier, voted on Monday night games.