Protesting German fans attach bicycle locks to goal

Anti-investor protests in German soccer escalated on Friday when fans attached bicycle locks to a goal and displayed banners showing a club executive's face in crosshairs.

There have been regular protests since last year against a plan to sell a stake in marketing revenues to a private equity investor for an up-front payment. As the league comes closer to an agreement, fans have become more disruptive.

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A second-division game between Hamburg SV and Hannover on Friday was repeatedly interrupted.

German news agency dpa reported people from a section of the stadium occupied by Hamburg supporters attached the thick metal bicycle locks to the goal at half-time, and objects were thrown onto the field. Staff used a power saw to cut the locks off the goalpost.

After that, the referee took the players off the field when Hannover supporters displayed banners protesting against CVC and Blackstone, the two prospective buyers in the league's investment deal. Other banners showed Hannover chief executive Martin Kind's face in crosshairs. Hannover players approached the stand to speak with the fans and a warning was made that the game would be abandoned if the disruption continued.

The game eventually resumed and finished 4-3 to Hannover, more than 2 hours and 40 minutes after it began.

Kind, a businessman who has long been involved with Hannover, is a controversial figure in German soccer over his role in the December vote to proceed with the investment talks.

The proposal passed with approval from 24 of the 36 clubs in the top two men's divisions, the exact two-thirds majority needed. Kind has refused to say how he voted. The members' club of Hannover has said it asked him to vote against.

Also Friday, Borussia Dortmund's Bundesliga game against Freiburg was interrupted for about 10 minutes in the first half by Dortmund fans throwing tennis balls and foil-wrapped chocolate coins onto the field.

A game last Saturday between Hertha Berlin and Hamburg was delayed by about half an hour, and another last Wednesday between Mainz and Union Berlin had extensive stoppages.