Berlin – All 36 clubs in Germany’s top two soccer leagues are preparing plans to welcome back small number of home fans when the upcoming 2020-21 Bundesliga season starts on September 18, the league’s chief revealed Thursday.
“All the clubs have prepared documents and are in talks with the (health) authorities,” said Christian Seifert, chief executive of the German Football League (DFL) after a virtual meeting of the clubs.
However, the return of fans to watch live soccer relies on the rate of infection of the coronavirus staying low and due to the uncertainty, Seifert anticipates “a demanding and difficult season.”
Earlier this week, Champions League semifinalists RB Leipzig paved the way after being given permission by their local health authority to host 8,500 home fans.
That means 20 percent of their stadium’s capacity can watch their first home game of the new Bundesliga season on Sept. 20 against Mainz, but only home fans are allowed.
Now Leipzig’s league rivals, including reigning champion Bayern Munich who will kick off the new season at home to Schalke on Sept. 18, are following suit by holding similar discussions with the respective authorities in their area.
However, it is proving controversial in Germany.
In mid-August, senior politicians refused to back the DFL’s proposed hygiene measures to allow fans back into stadiums.
“That would be the wrong signal,” said Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn at the time.
That meant each club having to approach their respective health authority, responsible for the measures to restrict the spread of COVID-19, in order to get permission.
The return of fans is the subject of fierce debate in Germany, where numbers of new infections are slowly rising.
“The questions as to whether supporters in Bundesliga stadiums sends the wrong signs are absolutely justified,” admitted Seifert.
However, he countered that it could be a “sign that thousands of people want to, and can adhere to, rules of conduct” by following hygiene measures.
There are already fears that some clubs could be barred from hosting home supporters, potentially putting them at a disadvantage.
“It makes a difference whether a club has 10,000 or 15,000 spectators in the stadium and other clubs have 500. Then there is no longer a level playing field,” warned Wolfsburg’s managing director Joerg Schmadtke.
The German Football Association has already sanctioned the return of a limited number of fans for the first round of German Cup matches from September 11-14, providing each host clubs’ local health authority gives the go-ahead.
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