German football club Fortuna Düsseldorf has announced plans to offer fans free entry to selected games at the 54,600-capacity Merkur Spielarena next season as part of an innovative initiative that could be rolled out to cover all home fixtures in the future.
The club, which competes in the second-tier 2.Bundesliga, said it wants to allow “all fans to attend home league games for free – whether members, season ticket holders, organised support, regular visitors or away fans” as part of a long-term “Fortuna for all” scheme.
Fortuna said that the free entry offer would initially cover a pilot phase during the 2023-24 campaign, with local reports suggesting there are plans to test out the initiative at three home games next season.
However, the club indicated that the scheme could be expanded to include all home matches in the future if more commercial partners come on board.
Fortuna elaborated by stating that local companies, who are projected to contribute about €45m (£40m/$50m) to the club’s coffers over the next five years, will help to cover “the ticket income that is gradually being lost”.
The club’s chief executive, Alexander Jobst, said: “We want everyone to be able to experience football in Düsseldorf and thus anchor Fortuna much more firmly in our city. Long-term partnerships make this possible. Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Targobank, Provincial and Common Goal share our belief that football belongs first and foremost to the fans.”
He added: “In order to be able to offer all home games free of charge, we need other long-term partners on our common path.”
Whilst ticket giveaways for sections of stadia are not uncommon in professional sports, particularly with dead-rubber contests towards the end of a season, it is highly unusual for a club of Fortuna’s size to adopt such an initiative.
With an average home attendance of nearly 30,000, Fortuna currently ranks as the 14th-best supported club in Germany, despite now having no chance of promotion to the top-tier Bundesliga.
However, with its base in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, Fortuna is located in a highly competitive region, with well-supported clubs like Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 among its neighbours.
Ticket revenues account for an average of 15% of club turnover in German football’s second division, where Fortuna has played since its relegation from the Bundesliga in 2020.
Fortuna has also vowed to be more transparent with how it uses its commercial income more generally. In the future, 20% of the funds generated will be put towards the club’s youth and women’s football programmes, with a further 20% injected into digital infrastructure and the stadium itself.
Sustainability and social projects will also benefit through the ‘Fortuna for all’ project, while workshops with fans, members and employees will be held to discuss the plans over the coming weeks. “We want to listen and create together,” Jobst added.