Football clubs in Germany’s top two divisions on Tuesday agreed to plans drawn up by the league which could allow the partial return of fans to stadiums from mid-September, despite the coronavirus pandemic.
German football faces a dramatic cultural shift if supporters are allowed back to stadiums next season, with away fans, standing and alcoholic drinks all set to be curbed. Elite clubs joined a key German Football League (DFL) meeting on Tuesday where a set of strict rules was put in place to ensure uniformity in how the coronavirus crisis is handled. Bundesliga clubs would be ready to welcome back fans if public health authorities consider it a safe step to take, having played out the final weeks of the 2019-20 season behind closed doors. In a statement, the league said it shared the view of clubs that away fans “make up an important part of German football culture that must be preserved”. Yet under the circumstances, clubs from the Bundesliga and 2 Bundesliga agreed they will not sell tickets to supporters of visiting teams until the end of the year.
“The priority in Germany at the moment is not full stadiums, but people’s health,” said Christian Seifert, chief executive of the Bundesliga after a virtual meeting of the clubs. “When and how many spectators are allowed to return to the stadiums is not a decision for the DFL to make.” The league’s plans for fans to return have been the subject of debate among politicians and virologists in Germany. Several fan groups have also criticized the plans, fearing long-term restrictions of their rights. However, the league insists any changes would only be temporary while the pandemic continues to be a factor. Seifert says the rate of infection must be taken into account and “should by no means be underestimated. Professional football can only return to normality in stages,” he added. “We will have to regain normality in small steps. We cannot go from zero to 100.”
Fixtures for the new season, which begins on September 18, are set to be released on Friday.
Germany has recorded 211,281 cases and 9,156 deaths due to the coronavirus, and in April began easing curbs imposed to halt transmission. But fears are growing over a second wave as daily number of new infections was steadily climbing again, in recent weeks hitting levels not seen since May.