Fans return in Bundesliga and Serie A

Fans returned to Italy’s Serie A and Germany’s Bundesliga for the first time since March at the weekend after the top-tier football leagues got their 2020-21 seasons underway.

In Germany, fans were present at a number of Bundesliga matches after politicians last week reached an agreement to allow stadium attendance of up to 20% capacity across the league.

The biggest attendance was at Signal Iduna Park, where 9,300 fans watched Borussia Dortmund’s 3-0 home win against Borussia Mönchengladbach. It marked Dortmund’s first home match with fans since February 29.

Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke thanked fans for their “very responsible demeanour” at the stadium, which the club was able to make ‘COVID-secure’ in a matter of days following the announcement that supporters would be allowed to attend.

Dortmund Mayor Ullrich Sierau said: “Not only did the team play well, but the organisation of the club also worked more than well and created great conditions. So the spectators could not only experience a nice game, but also a safe one. Compliments to the fans for their disciplined behaviour in every respect.”

Fans were required to enter and leave Signal Iduna Park at a specified time and maintain social distancing. Seventy-five per cent of fans were residents of Dortmund, with the remaining 25 per cent coming from other cities and communities in North Rhine-Westphalia.

The season got underway on Friday evening with Bayern Munich’s 8-0 thrashing of Schalke at Allianz Arena, but no fans were present due to a recent spike in local COVID-19 infections. Bayern had reached a compromise to allow 7,500 fans at the 75,000-seat stadium but the Munich Health Department ultimately decided that the match should go ahead behind closed doors.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga, VfB Stuttgart welcomed 8,000 fans for its 3-2 home defeat against SC Freiburg, while 6,500 watched Eintracht Frankfurt’s 1-1 draw against Arminia Bielefeld.

Five thousand fans attended Union Berlin’s 3-1 home defeat against Augsburg, while 8,500 Werder Bremen supporters watched their team’s 4-1 loss to Hertha Berlin and the same attendance was recorded for RB Leipzig’s 3-1 victory over Mainz.

FC Köln’s 3-2 home defeat to Hoffenheim went ahead without fans after the COVID-19 rate in the city was deemed too high. Only 500 fans attended VfL Wolfsburg’s 0-0 draw against Bayer Leverkusen due to state guidelines.

Meanwhile, it was announced on Saturday that up to 1,000 fans would be permitted at Serie A matches from yesterday (Sunday), with Parma’s 2-0 defeat at home to Napoli marking the first fixture to go ahead with spectators.

Fans were required to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, with temperature checks also carried out before they entered the stadium.

Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora made the announcement after the Emilia Romagna and Veneto regions had already detailed plans to allow fans to matches played by their respective clubs. Emilia Romagna is home to Parma, Sassuolo and Bologna, while Verona is based in Veneto.

Spadafora said the decision to extend the ruling to the entire country was taken to “avoid disparities between the teams”.

Gabriele Gravina, president of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), said the development was good news but said he was “perplexed” that the ruling only covers the top-tier Serie A and not lower leagues.

“The application of the safety protocols are the same in all three professional leagues, as well as the rules for distancing, so even on this issue there must be the same treatment,” Gravina said, according to the il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper. “In the difficult months of COVID, football has shown great responsibility. I am convinced that the same measure will be taken before the official start of the B and C seasons, scheduled for next weekend.”

A further review on rules allowing fans into Serie A stadiums will take place on October 7.

The biggest crowd at the weekend was in Poland, where 17,500 fans attended Lech Poznan’s match against Warta Poznan.

The Ekstraklasa club worked with ticketing partner Roboticket on adapting its system to accommodate social distancing measures at the 42,837-seat stadium. Roboticket chief executive Michal Pyda last week gave our sister site TheTicketingBusiness.com the lowdown on how the stadium setup was arranged.

The fixture marked the largest crowd at a European sporting event since March.

Image: Borussia Dortmund