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Away fans to head back to Bundesliga stadia

The German Football League (DFL) has announced that away fans will be able to return to Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga stadia from the third round of games in the forthcoming 2021-22 season.

The DFL said that as long as spectator capacity is still subject to legal restrictions, 5% of the tickets for each game are to be reserved for away fans. Once restrictions are lifted completely, there will be an automatic return to the intended allocation of 10%.

The DFL said it has chosen the third round of games in order to allow all clubs to have the experience of at least one home game with fans back in their stadium. Last season’s matches were almost entirely played without spectators, with away fans banned completely following a joint decision taken by clubs amid COVID-19.

Yesterday’s (Wednesday’s) decision comes after it was announced earlier this month that a maximum of 25,000 fans are set to be permitted to enter venues for major sporting events in Germany, under new guidelines issued ahead of the start of the 2021-22 Bundesliga season.

The announcement followed a meeting of officials from Germany’s 16 states and is designed to regulate sports events that attract spectator numbers in excess of 5,000. The new Bundesliga season is due to commence on August 13, as Bayern Munich travel to face Borussia Mönchengladbach at Borussia-Park, and the guidelines were rolled out as COVID-19 infection rates fell across the country.

Under the rules, which initially will be applicable through to September 11, sports stadia will be able to admit fans at 50% capacity, up to a cap of 25,000 spectators. However, COVID-19 infection rates must not exceed 35 per 100,000 people over the previous seven days for this to happen. If infection rates rise above this number, a limit of 5,000 fans will be imposed.

Only fans who can prove they have been vaccinated, or can present a negative test, will be allowed entry and various hygiene rules must be followed. However, individual states have the option of adjusting the framework and this is set to impact on Bayern.

The state of Bavaria has decided on maximum capacities of 35% for its venues, up to a limit of 20,000 fans, meaning that Bayern’s Allianz Arena is set to be limited to the latter figure. Bayern welcomed 250 fans to its final home game of the 2020-21 season, a 5-2 win over FC Augsburg on May 22. The game represented the first time Bayern fans had been in the Allianz Arena since March 8, 2020, as COVID-19 restrictions in Bavaria necessitated closed doors matches.

Several Bundesliga clubs did welcome a limited number of fans earlier in the season, while Bayern was joined by some other teams in admitting a restricted number of fans for the final round of games. Those matches marked the first Bundesliga games with fans since October.

Commenting on the decision regarding away fans, the DFL said: “In principle, each club is responsible for developing stadium-specific safety and hygiene concepts for staging matches as major events with public attendance. These individual concepts developed by the clubs are coordinated with the local health authorities in charge and require their approval.

“At the same time, following consultation with the local authorities, each club decides on the contents of its concept for itself. Although the respective coronavirus-related health protection ordinances of the federal states largely set out uniform regulations in this regard that are valid until September 11 after the most recent resolution of the heads of state and senate chancelleries of July 6, the individual concepts of the clubs take the respective location-specific conditions into account.

“These include the infrastructure at the stadiums in question and arrival and departure routes, which are different for each stadium, as well as the applicable orders from the authorities. In this respect, it is not possible to have a uniform nationwide concept for a return of fans to stadiums.”

Image: Blue-Letter/Edited for size