Anyone who goes to enjoy an ice hockey game or a football match by TSV 1860 Munich knew his voice: Stefan Schneider was the stadium announcer for almost three decades until the end of March 2021. We had a chat with him in autumn 2019 about stadium singing, dicey slips of the tongue and true fan love.
Mr. Schneider, you’ve been the stadium announcer for Munich’s Ice Hockey Club for nearly 30 years, as well as for TSV 1860 Munich for 26 years. What exactly do you see as your task?
That has changed over the course of time. A stadium announcer used to fulfil a different function. He would say “Grüß Gott” (the traditional Bavarian greeting) and read out the team line-up, or perhaps let the crowds know that the toilets were overcrowded. Today, our role is infotainment because people want to be entertained while inside the stadium. The sport itself is no longer enough on its own.
What does that mean for your work?
I have to share so much more: how many times the teams have played against each other, what the results were, who scored the goals. And we have rituals, for example, during the opening event or when a goal is scored. Sponsors also view the platforms of football and ice hockey differently today than they did before. There used to be advertising on football shirts and billboards, but today there's no end to promotions both during the match and at half time, where people can win EUR 100,000 when a goal is scored – or whatever it is those marketers manage to dream up.
Is that a change for the better?
It’s perfectly fine. Things have become more modern. Just like at concerts: in the past there were four guys with mad hairstyles on stage who made music, and people loved it. Today, they want a stage spectacle and fireworks to boot. When I joined the scene, there weren’t even those mechanisms that allow the audience to respond when the stadium announcer says something. Today, this is part and parcel of every match day scene.
When did that start?
I remember the time when, after my first game as stadium announcer for 1860, then-President Karl-Heinz Wildmoser asked me: “Are you sure it’s done the way you did it today?” I had watched the ice hockey for a few years by that point, and it had long been normal for a goal to be followed by the scorer’s first name, after which the surname was shouted out by the fans. This was not the case in football. But because I knew that many of my “Hedos” fans, those from ice hockey, were stood in the stands, I thought to myself: That's what we'll do now! In such a big stadium, of course, there’s so much more power when the fans shout as one. And thanks to the “Sportschau” programme on national TV, the rest of Germany quickly noticed that Munich was up to something different – and it didn't take long for it to become the norm.
So you were the pioneer?
I was also the first to “mingle in the crowds”. I said at the time that being up there in the speaker's box was not for me. I asked for a microphone spot down in the arena itself. I knew from ice hockey that this is the better place.
Why was this much more established in hockey?
It probably came from America. They had their organs and music long before we did. And, of course, it’s only logical: Wherever there's a roof over a bunch of people, the atmosphere heats up so much more. You’ll hardly find a sporting event like ice hockey anywhere else where the atmosphere can become so electric.
"If you’re having a good evening, then it's the best thing since sliced bread, but you must never be cocky, because if the mood tilts, it’ll be sure to come back and bite you."
And yet the mood is less aggressive than in football.
Yes, football can be prone to explosive tempers. In ice hockey, it’s only the games against Augsburg that bring special police surveillance with them. In football today, the situation is very much so that every person in charge, from the referee to the stadium announcer to the police, will go through all the potential dangers. I have no idea just how much de-escalation training I’ve completed in my time.
Have you experienced many dangerous situations?
More than any other, I remember a situation that I was responsible for. I’ve had only minimal slips of the tongue in my many years, but during a game against Energie Cottbus, I was briefly distracted, at which point I announced: “Erzgebirge Aue are making a substitution”. They had only been there the week before, and the two teams are not exactly on friendly terms. It only took a few seconds for reactions to boil over, and the fans wanted to storm the pitch.
How did you react?
Of course, I immediately apologised and that fortunately helped, but of course something like that shouldn’t happen during such a heated game. I once said: There are three places where you need to watch your tongue: the beer tent, the ice hockey stadium and the football stadium. If you’re having a good evening, then it's the best thing since sliced bread, but you must never be cocky, because if the mood tilts, it’ll be sure to come back and bite you. For twelve years now, I’ve had the great honour of closing the annual Oktoberfest with the respective mayor. The Oktoberfest begins at the so-called “Schottenhamel”, and when the mayor, a few weeks later, signals “Il Silenzio” to be played, you know the party’s over for another year – and I’m always right there. Just like in the stadium, you have to be able to deal with the fact that people surround you in the beer tent at every turn.
How much feedback do you really get from the fans during a game?
I try to assess each and every minute just what the mood is like, for both sets of fans. Although I wear headphones, through which I receive my instructions for the announcements, I always keep an ear open during the game. I’m not the guy you're looking for when it comes to hugely motivating the masses, though. Actually, only during very important games. For example, there was a moment during the ice hockey the other day, when I saw the team and thought that they needed support, so I said: “Please stand up for the ice hockey club.” And then suddenly, 4,000 people got to their feet. Because people know, when he says something, it must be important.
Do you talk a lot with the stands?
Above all with the fan spokesmen. Put it this way: objectivity is not the first virtue of a stadium announcer. If the fan forums of Berlin and Augsburg didn’t say that Schneider was an asshole, then I would probably be doing something wrong. That's the greatest possible recognition for your work, because they don’t mean you personally. You're with the enemy although seemingly not that bad, and that annoys them.
"I’ve held a season ticket for 1860 since I was six years old. And I haven't missed a single game in 26 years."
But you do annoy them by announcing extra quietly when the opponent scores a goal in our stadium.
I'll put it this way: of course you're louder when announcing a goal for your own team, because you say it so euphorically. But when we concede, it might be the case that I mumble a little by mistake.
You really live for the sport, right?
I’ve held a season ticket for 1860 since I was six years old. And I haven't missed a single game in 26 years. This is not just some job: there was already a genuine love for the club, otherwise doing what I do would not be possible.
Is there a fan song that you particularly like?
I would be lying if I said that I don't always get goose bumps when the fans unite in a chorus of “Stefan Schneider”. Otherwise, there are two I really like. One is a bit older, and gets sung less often. It’s also a great atmosphere at Christmas when all the fans get out their key chains and sing “Kling Glöckchen” ('Ring, Little Bell, Ring!').
From 2021, ice hockey will no longer be played in the team’s old stadium situated on Oberwiesenfeld in Munich, but rather in a huge multi-purpose arena. 12,000 fans instead of 6,000. And what will that do for the atmosphere?
That will be a big challenge for everyone. I see how the fans in some stadiums have all the vigour of a funeral parlour and how, for example, my colleagues in Mannheim moderate themselves to death. When I welcome everyone at Oberwiesenfeld, I can even see when one of the fans is tucking into a Leberkässemmel (Bavarian meatloaf roll) right up there; you just can’t get that close with even more cameras and huge screens. But we’ll get a handle on this balancing act in the SAP Arena.
Do you have a favourite stadium?
Every stadium is special: the Allianz Arena, the Grünwalder Stadium, the Olympiahalle. I love the old hall in Oberwiesenfeld, but it's also very stressful to work there; this should all become much easier in the new SAP Garden. Let's put it this way: the Red Bulls and 1860 are my teams – and if they decided to join Circus Krone, I’d go and watch them there. I just don’t mind. I’m wherever the team is, or better: I’m where the fans are.
And are Munich’s fans any different to other places?
Every stadium announcer proudly says: my fans are the greatest. There are several places in Germany for sure where I’m confident my fans are louder and more on side with their team during the action. But there are others too where I would say: they're also pretty good. But if somebody were to ask me, I'd always say: my fans are better. That's just how it is.