Bundesliga 2 club Fortuna Düsseldorf played out the second of their initial three trial games with free tickets as part of their plan to put fans back at the heart of the matchday experience with their 'Fortuna For All' campaign.
The 'Fortuna For All' project was unveiled at the end of 2022/23, outlining the club's ambitious plans to offer free admission to all spectators at the Merkur Spielarena, from hardcore season ticket holders and fan club members to occasional visitors and even away fans.
The campaign could hardly have gotten off to a more breathtaking start on Matchday 10, with the hosts gaining a remarkable 4-3 win having trailed by three goals against rivals Kaiserslautern. Over 120,000 ticket requests were made for that game.
The trial scheme then continued on Matchday 19, although the result didn't go Fortuna's way, with division leaders St. Pauli emerging victorious at the Merkur Spielarena.
"We want to make it clear what Fortuna Düsseldorf stands for," said club CEO Alexander Jobst. "With 'Fortuna For All', we're doing things differently and breaking new ground."
The club announced at the start of January that there had been some 130,000 applications for tickets to be inside the 54,600 capacity Merkur Spielarena for the game against Pauli. A market for second-hand tickets from those unable to use theirs was opened on 18 January.
The final test game in Fortuna's scheme will come on Matchday 28, when the Fortunen play host to Eintracht Braunschweig on the weekend of 5-7 April 2024.
The club is running the pilot scheme during the 2023/24 campaign before the project is fully implemented in the coming years. The gradual loss of matchday revenue will be compensated by greater investment from sponsors, who have also pledged funds to develop the club's youth academy, women's football team and digital infrastructure.
Further information on the campaign can be found here.
Watch: Fortuna For All begins with a bang!
When picking the games against Kaiserslautern, Pauli and Braunschweig, Fortuna considered the following three criteria:
- The games should provide fans with a great atmosphere. In terms of attractiveness and tradition, the opponents should befit Fortuna.
- It was ensured that there is enough time between the games so the club can learn from each game, improve procedures and tackle any points of criticism.
- All phases of the season should be covered, with a game early on, in the middle and then in the final third of the campaign.
This approach was agreed with the DFL. It was also decided that there would be no free games on the final four matchdays.
Fans were able to apply for the first free game against Kaiserslautern from mid-September. The only requirement was to have an account with the Fortuna online ticket shop - as was already the case to purchase any ticket.
"We've listened a lot in recent weeks, and taken the cricitism and ideas of fans into account. We're very happy to now be starting with 'Fortuna For All' and take the next step with the pilot phase," Jobst stated earlier in the season.
Watch: Take a look around Fortuna Düsseldorf's home
At the time of the initial announcement, Jobst had also acknowledged: "To be able to offer all home matches free of charge, we need more long-term partners. We're happy about the companies that are already on board, and we're open to others who want to join us on this extraordinary path."
Fortuna already had deals in place with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Targobank and Provinzial, while they have become the second professional club in Germany – after Werder Bremen – to join the Common Goal initiative that supports football charities worldwide.
"Fortuna's decision not only shows a lot of courage, but also an understanding of how to adapt to the modern game," declared Thomas Preiss, co-founder of Common Goal. "The future viability and relevance of clubs is increasingly determined by their social engagement, as well as their sporting success."
Düsseldorf play their football at the Merkur Spielarena, a UEFA Euro 2024 venue which boasts a capacity of 54,600 – although their average attendance in Bundesliga 2 this term has hovered around the 37,000 mark. The 'Fortuna For All' project will no doubt help to fill the stadium and boost the club's standing within the city.
"As the state capital, we have a natural interest in a strong Fortuna," explained Stephan Keller, the mayor of Düsseldorf. "That's why I support Fortuna's new project, which is to open football up to everyone, and anchor it more firmly in the city and the hearts of its citizens. This unique concept shows what Düsseldorf is capable of."
Germany is regularly lauded for putting fans first, whether it is allowing members to have their say on key club matters, prohibiting big-money takeovers by external investors thanks to the 50+1 rule, or keeping the cost of the matchday experience affordable. Now, Fortuna's ticketing revolution could open up an even more fan-friendly chapter in German football.
"We're embarking on a journey together in which things can still change, which is also a good thing," Jobst concluded. "The club belongs to everyone who participates and contributes with passion. But we have a clear goal, a common idea, strong partners and incredible fans."
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