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Borussia Dortmund faithful won't be seen, but hope to be heard

DORTMUND, Germany -- For the second time this season, the Bundesliga will conclude its final match of a round on Monday. After Eintracht Frankfurt's 2-1 home win over RB Leipzig last week, Borussia Dortmund will host FC Augsburg. And for the second time, Bundesliga fans will protest the Monday fixture.

Due to the new TV contract, the Bundesliga has introduced six different kickoff times for the 2017-18 campaign, including a new kickoff slot at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday and five matches held on Monday.

The new schedule is supposed to help the Bundesliga's Europa League starters, protect amateur football by not interfering with lower-league kickoff times and reduce "English weeks," in which two Bundesliga matches happen per week according to a statement published by the DFL, while stating that there is no commercial interest nor are there any plans to schedule more league games on Monday in the future.

And indeed, the argument to help out teams that are playing in the Europa League holds true in so far that, occasionally, teams had to play on Saturday following a Thursday night match in previous campaigns, which is counterproductive for the player's recuperation, health and for a fair sporting competition in general.

However, when 18 Bundesliga clubs unanimously agreed to the new deal, which will earn them a couple of million dollars more due to the added kickoff times, they ignored the needs of regular stadium-goers.

One could say that the DFL has scored an own goal by scheduling the first two Monday games in Frankfurt and Dortmund, giving the chance to two of the most outspoken sets of fans to voice their discontent.

Frankfurt fans did so in impressive fashion last Monday. In cooperation with their club, supporters were allowed to leave their stand to protest the game with big banners close to the pitch. The kickoff was delayed by 10 minutes, as they used the stage to send a message to the DFL. By throwing tennis balls on the field by the start of the second half, the Frankfurt fans underscored their resentment toward Monday games.

Borussia Dortmund supporters will show their form of protest by adding several shades of grey to the Yellow Wall on Monday night, as over 350 fan clubs, ultra groups and other supporters will boycott the game -- or stay away because, as Jan-Henrik Gruszecki, an active member of BVB's fan scene told the AuffeOhren Podcast: "People simply do not have time to go to a football game on Monday night."

To put Monday's boycott by the Dortmund fans into perspective, Gruszecki said: "Far more people will join in then there were to protest high ticket prices."

The "Kein Zwanni" campaign started by BVB supporters, reminiscent of "Twenty's Plenty" instigated by the Football Supporters Federation, had measurable success in Germany and has morphed into a nationwide movement since.

Monday's boycott was instigated by Dortmund fan club "BVB Sups Werdohl." Andreas Assmann, chairman of the fan club, told local station Radio 91.2: "We want to show what happens when fans lose their appetite or simply cannot attend the games due to time constraints. How the Westfalenstadion or the away support would look like in the future."

Assmann added: "We are directing the message not only to the German FA and the German Football League but also to the clubs, who were very keen to have those Monday fixtures in order to raise TV revenue."

The protests could mean serious repercussions for the Bundesliga. While football fans around the world had to look elsewhere for a strong sporting competition in the past five years -- with Bayern Munich looking to comfortably clinch their sixth league win on the bounce -- one of the league's scarce unique selling points is its appeal of full stadiums and great atmospheres.

The German top flight has put that at stake, as the disenfranchisement of active supporters grows.

"Stadium-goers feel like they are second-rate to the TV audience," Gruszecki said, naming the introduction of the video assistant referee as the latest example, as the lack of video replays or explanation of decisions leaves people in the stadiums dumbfounded.

And hence clubs are feeling the pressure of their most loyal supporters. BVB CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said in an interview with FAZ: "I can sense a real resistance to this from the fans.

"From a commercial point of view, we should not do everything just because it is possible. Without Monday games we will probably earn one or two million euros less from 2021. But a greater sense of unity with the fans is worth more to us.

"In that sense, too, Borussia Dortmund's objective is to return to our roots!"

A statement that should give supporters hope that their protests are indeed making a difference in the thinking of officials. Watzke, a proclaimed lifelong Dortmund fan, could have anticipated the disgruntlement of fans but nevertheless, the club did not make any attempts to stop the addition of Monday fixtures.

Spectators of Monday's match between Dortmund and Augsburg are to expect an uncommonly empty Westfalenstadion and a different atmosphere due to the lack of active support, as Peter Stoger's side are trying to build a three-point margin over third-placed Schalke. Though, through the lack of a sellout crowd, another specialty of Bundesliga will be on display: The willingness of its supporters to fight for their fan culture.