Bundesliga clubs to discuss return of fans

Clubs across football’s German Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga are set to meet next week to discuss measures that would allow the return of fans for the 2020-21 season, while UK Sports Minister, Nigel Huddleston, has extinguished hope that the English Premier League’s new campaign could start with supporters in attendance.

The German Football League (DFL) this month sent its 36 Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga clubs a guideline to help them create concepts to allow spectators back into stadia. With the Bundesliga having completed its 2019-20 season on June 27, stakeholders are currently planning for the 2020-21 campaign, which is due to start on September 18.

The extraordinary general meeting on August 4 is set to discuss whether there should be a uniform approach for all clubs with regards certain aspects, with four key talking points picked out by the DFL. These include a proposal to ban the sale of tickets to away fans.

German clubs are currently entitled to a ticket allocation for away games of at least 10% of the capacity of the stadium in question. Should the clubs agree, this regulation could be temporarily suspended until the end of the year and away fans prevented from attending games.

The DFL said that while there is “no question” away fans form an “important part of German football culture”, it added that a temporary ban would help to reduce the risk of infection during COVID-19 by limiting the nationwide travel of supporters.

The DFL has maintained its stance that standing areas will be off limits at stadia to aid compliance with social distancing and hygiene measures. However, the League said this could be altered from November 1, when German states could seek to revise their individual COVID-19 regulations.

A blanket ban on alcohol sales will also be discussed at next week’s meeting, while options to potentially track fans attending games through special game operations measures will be analysed. The DFL said: “A temporary addition to the game regulations is therefore to be voted on at the DFL general meeting until the end of the year, after which the clubs undertake to ensure that the identity and contact details of any stadium visitors who may be affected can be determined in the event of infections.

“This is based on the consideration that the local health authorities can only interrupt existing infection chains early and effectively if they can quickly identify and contact the relevant people. The precise design for follow-ups would continue to be the responsibility of the individual clubs if the general meeting decided to do so, which would have to include concrete measures in their site-specific concepts.”

The DFL’s proposals have been met with criticism from fans. “We generally welcome the fact that the DFL wants to set up uniform guidelines for all 36 first and second division clubs,” Thomas Kessen, a representative of the Unsere Kurve fans group, told broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

“However, some of the proposed DFL measures are intolerable to us: that a blanket ban on visiting fans is imposed, that alcohol should be banned across the board, that standing room tickets should be banned – these are all points that we cannot support.”

Kessen added: “If you want to ban away fans, alcohol and standing areas, it shows a basic distrust of football fans. We oppose this. During the Corona crisis, German football fans clearly showed how responsible they are and that they are aware of the importance of the issue for society as a whole.”

Meanwhile, Huddleston has said officials are still working towards the target of reopening English sports venues to fans from October. Huddleston was speaking after Sunday saw fans attend a UK sporting event for the first time since March as 1,000 people watched a friendly cricket match between Surrey and Middlesex at the Kia Oval.

The match served as one of a number of events selected by the UK government earlier this month to pilot the safe return of spectators. It was announced on Friday that the 2020-21 Premier League and English Football League (EFL) seasons will start on September 12, but Huddleston has dampened hopes that fans could attend.

“The October 1 deadline is certainly the target that we’re looking at,” Huddleston said, according to The Guardian. “If you look at various announcements we’ve made, some have been put forward, some have been pushed back, but that’s a pretty firm one. In the whole scheme of things, it’s not that far away – 60-something days and we’ll be there – so I would be surprised if that date was moved.”

The Community Shield and Women’s Super League matches are said to be under consideration for further test events, but Huddleston has warned football fans that they must adhere to the rules if stadia are to be reopened.

“There are particular challenges with certain sports,” he said. “People have got to realise if you don’t behave, you won’t have more people in stadiums. They’ve got to take that personal responsibility and realise that if they don’t behave appropriately they’re risking the game for everybody.”

Image: DFL