Net gains Premier League could follow Germans to sort out meshy business of missiles and pitch invasions
13:04 GMT, 10 December 2012
Heralded for possessing some of the finest top-level football stadiums on the planet, the majority constructed or extensively remodelled for the 2006 World Cup, behind-the-goal netting is commonplace in the German Bundesliga.
Sportsmail spoke to Ralf Esser, the owner of Funtec, which supplies the crowd-control measures to grounds such as Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena and Stuttgart’s Mercedes-Benz Arena, to find out what may lie in store for English fans.
Look closely: The net at the home of Bayern Munich is just visible if you stare hard enough
So how does the system work
We became involved at the request of FIFA for the 2006 World Cup to design a system which would prevent objects being thrown, including pyrotechnics, on to the pitch and to stop people running onto the field.
It is a flame-resistant mesh which you can see through very easily.
We produce a steel rope which is built into the roof of the stadium from which the net is suspended and there are no poles to obscure the view.
So what do the fans think about the nets
Sometimes they notice them if they are very, very close to the net. But we often have a very funny reaction from the fans.
They write letters to the clubs complaining that it is not fair that only the home supporters, and not the away fans, have nets in front of them. That’s because they cannot see them on the other side!
You do not focus on the nets. You focus on the action behind it. We don’t want the fans to notice the net.
Net profit: Again, at first glance the net at Borussia Dortmund's Westfalenstadion is hard to spot
What about the safety implications about having nets
It is possible to break the net down very quickly. It can be winched away if you only wish to use it for high-risk games.
In fact there was a match a few weeks ago at Hoffenheim where they forgot to take it down, nobody realised it was still up!
We have had lot of discussion with the emergency services. Every stadium is different and everyone has a different emergency concept.
There are provisions in place for spectators to run through the net or to go underneath it.
There are exits which are protected with Velcro which can be opened by the stewards.
There are systems in the steel rope which, if the tension is getting too high, the net will break in individual sections.
The steel rope also has a mechanism at the end that if there is more than two tons of pressure it will break in slow and smooth fashion so it cannot fall into the spectators.
There are lot of emergency break points which are guaranteed to break under a certain pressures and conditions.
Flashpoint: Rio Ferdinand was hit with a coin as Manchester United won the derby at the Etihad Stadium
What would it prevent being thrown on to the pitch, coins, and lighters
It depends on the size of the mesh and the speed a coin is thrown. A lighter will be stopped by the mesh.
If a coin is heavy enough it can go through the mesh but it will still slow it down. If you manage to throw a coin the right way it can get through.
If you make the mesh too fine you can see the net so we have to find a compromise.
The stadium owners don’t want the mesh to be too fine. But with a net that you cannot see, the fans soon find out it is not worth throwing two or three coins until you hit somebody.
Pitch invader: A Manchester City fan was able to get too close to the players during Sunday's derby
Have you had any contact from a Premier League club and how long would it take to install
We have had no discussions as yet but it would take just one week to install. If you don’t have any protection systems it is also cheap.
You do not have to dig foundations or install poles. All our solutions are based on the steel cable which stretches from one side of the stadium to the other.
The system is working very well in Germany. The league supports it but they have not made a rule that you have to install it.
All of the big clubs have it but they do not want to draw attention to it. If they did people would realise it is installed.