News Overview 2015

Better Civic Education through a Love of Soccer

Frankfurt – rousing applause rang out at the start of the first-ever SofaTalk event, which was held beneath the venerable vaulted ceiling of the Ratskeller cellar in the city’s Römer building. The following 90 minutes demonstrated that this initial enthusiasm was more than justified. The focus of the event was the Learning in Stadiums project.

With the establishment of the foundation Lernort Stadion e.V. in the fall of 2014, the project is now standing on its own two feet. In twelve stadiums, young people are being taught about politics in a way that harnesses their love of soccer, as they get to grips with issues such as racism, homophobia, and drugs in workshops and project weeks. They practice violence and conflict prevention, hone their personal skills, reflect on their own behavior, and explore their ability to work in a team. "This is one of our flagship projects – and one with genuine mass appeal," says Stefan Kiefer, Chairman of the Bundesliga-Stiftung foundation.

27,000 Young People Already Drawn to Project

The initiator of Learning in Stadiums is the Robert Bosch Stiftung, which has been supporting the project since 2010 in partnership with the Bundesliga-Stiftung. As a partner on inclusion-related issues, Aktion Mensch has also been providing the project with financial and practical support since 2014. The result is a network like no other in Germany. It transcends the areas of soccer and education and has already drawn more than 27,000 youngsters aged between 14 and 18. "The soccer stadiums have a magnetic appeal for them," explains Sylvia Krenn, project leader at the Robert Bosch Stiftung.

"We support Learning in Stadiums because it gets young people excited, resonates with them, and helps them access politics in new ways," explained Stefan Kiefer during the interesting and informative SofaTalk event in Frankfurt. On the one hand, the Bundesliga-Stiftung has been a project benefactor since 2010; on the other, it opens doors at professional clubs.

Opening Up Issues to Society

"Through soccer, we put various issues on the public agenda, with the Bundesliga and Bundesliga-Stifting playing a key role," says Axel Hellmann, Chairman of Eintracht Frankfurt. "Learning in Stadiums uses soccer as a platform to open these issues up to society at large. And we, the clubs, employ the financial means at our disposal to support projects relevant to society."

BildungsArena Eintracht Frankfurt (Eintracht Frankfurt Educational Arena), the Frankfurt-based Learning in Stadiums project, used the event’s halftime break to showcase examples of its work. Young people are introduced to the political dimension of soccer through modules such as Fit for Life and Fit for Job. "Our aim is to help turn young people into mature and reflective representatives of our democracy," explains project leader Stefan Hebenstreit. When all goes well, the participants acquire new skills and discover self-determination and self-esteem.

Almost Fully Booked until Mid 2016

These views are shared by Thomas Schneider, Head of Fan Issues at DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga GmbH, who picked up on a vital connection with the youngsters when visiting the stadiums. "Using these learning centers, we can convey important values to the youngsters through the medium of soccer and inspire them in terms of their future development." And the project really is striking a chord. The program is more or less fully booked across Germany until mid 2016. Therefore, Birger Schmidt, Chairman of Lernort Stadion e.V since April 1, 2015, hinted that there may be scope to add new sites in the future. "You have to have a vision."

The choice of the project’s patron – who spoke to the hundred or so guests by video message – offered further proof that the future of soccer-related civic education is designed to be fun. Soccer commentator and TV presenter Oliver Welke is perhaps best known for his satirical program heute-show – which, like Learning in Stadiums, has found favor with young people.

(Tim Tonner, May 2015)