Why German football has the best fans in the world
German football is world-renowned for its fan culture, with supporter ownership, low ticket prices, community outreach and stunning action both on and off the pitch all contributing to the Bundesliga boasting the best fans in the world.
For many, the sight and sound of the famed Yellow Wall in full choreo and chorus is the very pinnacle of footballing fandom.
Year-round, Borussia Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park home has a magnetic pull with fans from all over the world flocking to the stadium to see first-hand how the South Stand's 24,454-capacity standing terrace heaves and sways in support of its team.
It is a sight to behold and a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many, but for those that travel up and down the country week in, week out, it's simply another feature of Germany's wider, awe-inspiring fan culture.
Watch: This is Borussia Dortmund, Europe's best-attended club
And those hardy folk traversing the country to cheer on their teams do so in incredible numbers. For reference, look at Werder Bremen taking 30,000 of their supporters to the capital to face Hertha Berlin, a figure that would dwarf a great deal of home fans on their own turf.
As a result, visual and aural delights are aplenty at, more often than not, sell-out stadiums, which is why it's little wonder the Bundesliga consistently ranks as one of Europe's best when it comes to attendance.
It's not just the top flight that attracts loyal fans in their droves, either; in a recent UEFA report, Bundesliga 2 ranked as the sixth-best attended league on the continent, and fourth for the percentage of seats sold. Only the Bundesliga, English Premier League and the Dutch Eredivisie saw a greater proportion of places occupied on a weekly basis.
Clearly, Germany is doing something right and a major reason for the country's success in packing its venues to the rafters each matchday is its 50+1 membership rule that ensures club members - i.e. the fans - hold a 51 percent voting majority.
This ensures club traditions are upheld and respected, flags, banners and choreos permitted in grounds, alcohol is consumed on the terraces, and ticket prices are kept low.
Affordable ticketing is another significant contributor to regularly substantial fan turnout, with spectators never priced out of the matchday experience, unlike other leagues in Europe where the fan is often seen as a commodity and their presence welcomed at stadiums with cartoonish eyes containing dollar signs.
In Germany, tickets for standing in the terraces often start at just €9 and the majority of them allow fans to ride on local public transport to and from the stadium, breaking down further financial barriers, while increasing access The Beautiful Game.
Fortuna Düsseldorf have gone one further, announcing plans to offer free tickets to all of their home games. Through its 'Fortuna For All' project, the club hopes fans will return to their place at the heart of the matchday experience.
This kind of relationship - and ownership - of clubs feeds the loyalty that is visually and vocally displayed on the terraces.
Watch: Best of Fortuna Düsseldorf fans
And these bonds are iron-clad as a result, with German football clubs famous for the deep-rooted connections made between teams and their supporters.
Take Union Berlin for example, whose fans literally bled for the club in 2004, queuing in their droves to do their bit and donate blood to help fund the Köpenick-based outfit's registration with the DFB in 2004. That's far from the end of it: they then joined in the renovations to their stadium, committing over 140,000 hours of free labour to aid the rebuild at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei that led to the ground reopening its doors in 2009.
This puts a new meaning to ‘home team’, something Die Eisernen further underlined when inviting fans to watch 2014 World Cup matches at the Försterei, which was converted into one giant living room for the tournament complete with sofas set out on the pitch.
Then there are Germany's Kultvereine - or 'cult clubs' - who operate differently to any of their peers.
Watch: 5 things on cult club St. Pauli
Chief among them is St. Pauli, the pirate flag-waving Hamburg outfit with a punk spirit and dedication to inclusivity, underpinned by its vociferous pro-environment and LGBTQ stances and, among others, anti-racism campaigns, which are part of the very fabric of the club.
This is clearly on display in the Millerntor stadium's North Stand, where a banner reads, 'No human is illegal', and the seats above it are coloured to form two hearts.
There is something for everyone when it comes to German football fandom, whether it be a genuine stake in the club, a sense of community capable of real-world impact or to simply experience a matchday full of colour, camaraderie and a whole lot of noise.
As the Bundesliga's strapline goes, this is football as it's meant to be.
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