German stadiums could return to full capacity for the first time in two years from next month.
Officials have announced a pathway towards the end of COVID-19 restrictions on March 20, when Bundesliga football venues and other arenas and stadiums could once again be full.
Under plans published by the Federal Government following discussions with regional leaders, the number of visitors at venues can rise significantly from March 4. Up to 25,000 spectators will be able to attend outdoor arenas with a maximum utilisation of 75% of the total capacity. A maximum of 6,000 spectators may be admitted to indoor venues with a maximum occupancy rate of 60%.
Capacity restrictions would be removed completely from Sunday, March 20 – meaning full capacities return to the Bundesliga return for the first time since March 8, 2020.
However, officials said basic protection measures should still apply after March 20, such as wearing masks and social distancing in enclosed areas. Compulsory testing and vaccination status could also still apply.
“We can look to the future with more confidence than we have been able to in recent weeks,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
The plan was welcomed by sports organisations, although the end of restrictions coming during a Bundesliga matchday could cause issues – with some teams due to play to limited capacities on Friday and Saturday before the change is introduced on Sunday.
Frank Bohmann, managing director of the Handball-Bundesliga competition, told reporters: “We urgently need normal operations again, the crisis mode must now be put aside as soon as possible, otherwise our business will soon no longer be feasible. The German professional leagues, including football, stand shoulder to shoulder on this issue. We are in regular exchange.”
Most Bundesliga football matches during 2020-21 were played behind closed doors, with restricted capacities at some matches. Ahead of the start of 2021-22, a maximum of 25,000 fans were permitted to enter venues for major sporting events in Germany.
In December, amid the Omicron wave, Germany’s national government and state officials agreed to only allow up to 50% capacity in sports venues with a cap at 15,000 for outdoor venues and 5,000 for indoor venues.
Earlier this week it was announced that sports venues in Spain have been cleared to open at full capacity from March 4.