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Germany weighing up stance on major events attendance

The German Government has hinted at adopting a blanket approach to controlling attendances at major sporting events after Interior Ministry spokesman Steve Alter admitted that the current state of affairs is “really unsatisfactory”.

Germany currently operates a system of leaving policy on sports events during COVID-19 up to the 16 state governments, meaning that attendances across football’s top-tier Bundesliga can vary wildly across the country.

RB Leipzig hosted the first Bundesliga game of the 2021-22 season in an empty stadium on Sunday, losing 3-1 to Bayer 04 Leverkusen at Red Bull Arena, due to the fact its home state of Saxony has Germany’s highest COVID-19 infection rates.

By contrast, on Saturday, FC Köln was permitted 50,000 fans at RheinEnergieStadion (pictured) for its 4-1 win over local rival Borussia Mönchengladbach. Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said yesterday (Monday) that it was “really hard to understand why 50,000 people are coming together in a football stadium, even if it was approved,” at a time when experts are saying that contacts need to be reduced.

Interior Ministry spokesman Steve Alter added, according to the Associated Press news agency: “This inequality among the German states in the pandemic as far as large events are concerned – which doesn’t just affect sports, but other big events – is really unsatisfactory.”

Alter stated that outgoing Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has been saying for weeks that it should be reduced. He continued that the varying approaches are “a sign for (Seehofer) that it would perhaps make sense to react to this at the federal level”.

However, the outgoing government is likely to leave office next week, and Seehofer’s party will head into opposition. The incoming coalition is yet to appoint a successor.

Germany registered another 29,364 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, according to the Robert Koch Institute, along with a further 73 deaths.

There are increasing concerns about COVID-19 security amongst the events community. The upcoming edition of the Winter Universiade in the Swiss city of Lucerne was cancelled yesterday, becoming one of the first major events to be called off due to concerns relating to the new Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The multi-sport event had been due to take place in Lucerne from December 11-21 but it was confirmed on Monday that the competition will not be taking place.

Image: Ubiorum/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size