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Bundesliga season set to finish behind closed doors

Christian Seifert, chief executive of the German Football League (DFL), has conceded that it is unlikely that fans will return to the Bundesliga before the end of the season.

All major leagues across Europe are currently playing matches behind closed doors due to COVID-19. The Bundesliga did begin its season with a limited number of fans permitted in stadiums but matches have been held without spectators since October.

Clubs had been allowed to open their stadiums at 20% capacity, providing local infection numbers were low and the relevant hygiene processes had been approved. Although there are still around four months of the 2020-21 season remaining, Seifert has admitted that the campaign is likely to be played out without fans.

In an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Seifert said: “In any case (of a fan return), not in a significant number. If we had ruled out games without fans from the start as some people demanded, the system would have collapsed.

“And no one at (the league) or the clubs wants to have games without fans either. However, we still have them because they are the only permitted option for hosting games, and presumably we will have them until the end of the season.”

Seifert last month warned that the Bundesliga’s turnover would drop by as much as €1bn (£891m/$1.2bn) this season if fans were unable to return to stadiums. Seifert said that the 2019-20 season, which was paused last March due to COVID-19 before being concluded behind closed doors, saw turnover drop by around six per cent, or €250m.

Borussia Dortmund recorded the highest attendance of the 2020-21 Bundesliga season so far when 11,500 fans watched its 4-0 win over SC Freiburg in early October. A number of other teams also welcomed fans to their stadiums but champion Bayern Munich played all of its home games behind closed doors.

English Premier League matches are also being played behind closed doors with the country currently in lockdown. Fans did return in the Premier League last month, with up to 2,000 supporters permitted in areas that were in Tier 2 of the country’s COVID-19 system.

However, a spike in COVID-19 cases resulted in restrictions being heightened and matches in recent weeks have been held without fans. Speaking to broadcaster Sky ahead of last weekend’s fixtures, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said it is “difficult to guess” when fans would be able to return.

Masters added: “Obviously we’re hugely optimistic that by the start of next season the vaccination programme will have returned this country to some sense of normality and we can have fans back from the start of next season.”

Image: Валерий Дед/CC BY 3.0/Edited for size