A Large Audience Comes with a Large Responsibility

Soccer reaches and excites people like almost no other sport. But time and again violence and racist chants also occur in the stadiums. The project Learning in Stadiums fills them with political education instead. While handing over the project to the DFL Foundation, personalities from professional soccer and society discussed the responsibility of the sport.

Robert Bosch Stiftung | September 2017
Photo: Björn Hänssler

When a school class gets to spend a day at the stadium of a Bundesliga soccer club, they are always very enthusiastic – not only because it is a change from their regular school routine, but also because it offers them some very special glimpses behind the scenes. They have the chance to see inside the players’ locker rooms and the VIP lounges, and to speak with members of the team.

The Lernort Stadion (Learning in Stadiums) project takes advantage of young people’s fascination with all things soccer in order to spark their enthusiasm for political education, as well as enhance their social skills. Once the behind-the-scenes tour is completed, the stadium becomes a learning center where young people discuss societal and political topics like social inclusion, racism, homophobia, and violence prevention.

Real-life Questions from Young People

Journalist and presenter Oliver Welke is the patron of the "Learning in Stadiums” project. In this video, he responds to questions from young people at the learning centers: How tolerant are soccer stadiums? What is the status of gender equality in the soccer world? How can "Learning in Stadiums” help with the integration of refugees?

What began in 2009 with a few model locations has now become a network of 17 learning centers throughout Germany, coordinated by the organization Lernort Stadion e.V. and with new learning centers constantly being added. After eight years as the primary sponsor, the Robert Bosch Stiftung has now handed the "captain’s armband" over to the DFL Stiftung (German soccer league foundation – formerly the Bundesliga Stiftung).

A central focus of the formal handover ceremony in Stuttgart was the discussion of social responsibility in and around the stadium. Special guests included former pro soccer player Thomas Hitzlsperger; Ingo Schiller, Executive Director of the Hertha BSC soccer club; Bettina Bundszus-Cecere of the German Federal Ministry of Family Affairs; and journalist Ronny Blaschke. ZDF television journalist Mitri Sirin moderated the panel discussion.

What Are the Social Responsibilities of Professional Soccer?

Hitzlsperger is aware of soccer’s extensive reach – which is why he would like to see more social activism among professional soccer players. In this regard, Blaschke sees a responsibility on the part of the top teams: "The clubs could begin sensitizing young players about soccer’s sociopolitical responsibilities from the early training phase onward."

In this video, the panel members explain what they think the social responsibility of professional soccer should look like in Germany:

Since the project began, "Learning in Stadiums" has reached over 40,000 children and young people through its "Education on the Ball." As the new season kicks off, Lernort Stadion e.V. has acquired another financial sponsor: the German Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. The Robert Bosch Stiftung wishes Lernort Stadion e.V. great success in the future: May they keep the ball rolling!