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BVB angry, FC Bayern happy: Bundesliga wrestles with spectator patchwork

The fans of Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04 are rarely seen arm in arm. And if so, the police may have to intervene.

But in this strange Corona time with threateningly high but abstract incidences, at least the top floors of the Revier clubs are working together. Because the resolutions of the federal and state governments to admit – or not – spectators continue to cause uproar in the Bundesliga. Going to court seems close.

The point of contention

Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the heads of the federal states had decided that because of the Omicron variant, opening steps for major events would be awaited – uniform rules should be agreed by February 9th. A day later, up to 10,000 people (maximum 25 percent of the total capacity) were allowed in Bavaria, and the state government in Baden-Württemberg followed on Wednesday with a decision for up to 6,000 spectators in stadiums with the 2G plus rule. North Rhine-Westphalia’s Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst (CDU), on the other hand, said on Wednesday: “There can be no signal for large-scale, blanket easing.” The NRW regulation, with only 750 fans allowed so far, affects six clubs in the Bundesliga alone.

The patchwork quilt

If these restrictions remain in place in the coming days, it will become all too clear on Matchday 21 after the short international break from February 4th what the Bundesliga bosses are upset about. In the huge Berlin Olympic Stadium, 3000 people can watch the game against VfL Bochum on Friday evening, in Augsburg more than twice as many fans could see the game against Union. FC Bayern should get rid of 10,000 tickets for the top game against RB Leipzig. The NRW clubs Bielefeld, Cologne and Dortmund, on the other hand, received very little encouragement from the ranks. In the Dortmund stadium with the legendary south stand, 750 people seem pretty lost.

The consequences

The audience question is only superficially about the good atmosphere in the stadium and the return to normality. The clubs need the income from ticket sales. The “Kölnische Rundschau” calculated on Wednesday that FC would lose around 1.8 million euros in every home game without spectators. That hurts – all the more so when significantly more spectators are allowed into the stadiums at other locations with perhaps even comparable corona numbers. “All available data show that football stadiums are not sources of infection under 2G conditions and in compliance with the conditions and concepts worked out with the responsible authorities,” said Stuttgart CEO Thomas Hitzlsperger. “The current regulations ignore this and pose almost insurmountable challenges for all organized sport, both financially and organizationally as well as emotionally.”

The threat

Borussia Dortmund’s managing director Hans-Joachim Watzke was the first to announce very clearly that he would take a close look at the NRW resolutions and check “whether we can have them checked in an urgent procedure”. CEO Bernd Schröder from the second division club Schalke joined, as did RB Leipzig CEO Oliver Mintzlaff and Alexander Wehrle, managing director of 1. FC Köln. According to experts, the chances of success are not that bad. “I believe that a lawsuit has a good chance of success,” Gelsenkirchen lawyer Arndt Kempgens told the newspapers of the Funke media group (Wednesday). Düsseldorf lawyer Matthias Lang also questions the number 750. “Where does she come from?” There is no scientific evidence that this upper limit brings anything.

The support

Public opinion does not seem as clear as the Bundesliga bosses would like it to be. According to a survey by the opinion research institute YouGov, 57 percent of those surveyed are in favor of the nationwide partial opening of the stadiums to fans for the time being. On the other hand, 29 percent of Germans reject this regulation and would like to see more spectators at Bundesliga games again.

The comparison

Wehrle had noted that it was “incomprehensible if 2,000 of the 2,100 possible spectators in the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg are in a closed room and a few kilometers further in the Hamburg stadium also 2,000, because that’s the limit.” The authority in charge of the world-famous concert hall fought back: “You can understand the dissatisfaction in sport,” said press spokesman Enno Isermann in front of the Hamburg cultural authorities. “But you shouldn’t play the areas off against each other. The prime ministers rightly said that culture has a special meaning. Also and especially now.” Especially since the “Elphi” voluntarily reduced to 1300 visitors.

The Satisfied

As expected, the Bavarian clubs did not have much to criticize on Wednesday. After all, the state government around Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) has gone further than everyone else. “I think it’s important to send this signal at this time,” said Bayern Munich CEO Oliver Kahn. “We need sensible solutions, not just for football now, but basically in all areas of society.” For the Augsburg coach Markus Weinzierl, the different audience requirements in the federal states also have something to do with luck. “There is a luck factor and the spectator factor is one of them,” said the coach on Wednesday. Some would be lucky when it came to the return of fans in Corona times, others bad luck.

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