Posted on May 16
Hertha Berlin on Wednesday appealed against their relegation play-off defeat at Fortuna Duesseldorf which was marred by a double pitch invasion and left their players fearing for their lives.
Fortuna's 2-2 home draw on Tuesday saw them win the German league relegation play-off 4-3 on aggregate and earn promotion to the Bundesliga at Hertha's expense amidst chaotic scenes.
The relegation play-off clash at Fortuna's Espirit Arena was twice interrupted by pitch invasions as fans fired flares onto the field and the German Football Federation (DFB) has launched an investigation.
Hertha, whose players were reluctant to return to the pitch after a mass invasion by fans late in stoppage time, have demanded a replay, and the DFB has set the appeal hearing for Friday.
"For us, the game was irregular, because it was no longer just about a competitive match," explained Hertha's lawyer Christoph Schickhardt.
"The sole purpose of restarting the game was to hinder any further escalation of trouble.
"According to the DFB statutes, a game under these circumstances is not considered valid and has to be replayed."
Hertha manager Michael Preetz has said his players' concerns for their personal safety had overshadowed the match.
"The players were afraid, it was no longer about a sporting event," said Preetz.
"The issue of personal safety was the main concern, not the effort needed to create a goal in the last two minutes."
Fortuna reacted calmly to the news as they look forward to rejoining the Bundesliga for the first time since 1997.
"We are under the impression the game was refereed properly and that the result will stand," Duesseldorf president Peter Frymuth told SID, an AFP subsidiary.
Having won the first-leg 2-1 in Berlin, Tuesday's return leg was briefly halted after Fortuna took a 2-1 lead with an hour played as dozens of lit flares landed on the pitch prompting referee Wolfgang Stark to stop play.
There was then a 20-minute delay when fans poured onto the field with two minutes of stoppage time still to play as Stark again halted the match before the remaining 90 seconds were finally played out.
The DFB launched an investigation earlier on Wednesday after the ugly scenes were broadcast live on German television.
"With dismay and concern, we have noted the incidents in Duesseldorf," wrote DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach and German league (DFL) boss Rainhard Rauball in a joint statement.
"DFB and DFL agree that such irresponsible and threatening scenes in a football stadium can not be tolerated and must be punished rigorously.
"The DFB's disciplinary committee are responsible for finding the appropriate sanction, the Control Committee has already started the investigation."