By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Bundesliga Matchday 12: The "plans for fans" across Germany

Bundesliga football returns this weekend. With it shall come the crowds of Europe's most vibrant fan-scene. The football supporters will file into the hallowed grounds of the Bundesrepublik amid the specter of a rising COVID incidence rate and the German federal government's long awaited policy response.

Here at Bulinews, we've been reporting on attendance figures in the top-flight since the 2021/22 season began. Our weekly column expanded to take a look at the "plans for fans" in the weekend ahead as well, something we regrettably could not do when the league headed into its November international break.

We knew that much was set to change as national political figures and representatives from the country's 16 federal states were set to meet this week. That summit meeting having just concluded, we now have a clearer picture of how Bundesliga attendance will be set up not only this coming matchday, but throughout the rest of the winter.

Our report below covers the concepts and rules in place for all nine top-tier fixtures this weekend. We'll also cover state regulations in place for all 18 Bundesliga clubs and supply the latest local public health data for all hosting cities.
Our usual look at the "plans for fans" in the nine top-tier hosting German football clubs had to, owing to the international break, be deferred from the last attendance column. As expected, many events of great political importance unfolded in the Bundesrepublik over the last week. The country's COVID regulations have shifted rapidly right up until an emergency federal summit meeting that just concluded this evening.

On a federal level, Germany is still transitioning between governments. Following the national elections on September 26th, talks between three political parties (SPD, FDP, Grüne) seeking to form a coalition government have been ongoing. As we've reported upon before in this column, this has meant the there has not been a federal policy on corona-related restrictions. The 16 separate states have been left to implement their own regulations.

The pandemic, of course, is not waiting for government negotiations to be concluded. Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), presumptive next Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), and representatives from Germany's 16 federal states thus convened an emergency meeting in order to craft a bridge-policy to be supported by the both regimes and all states across the country.

Many things were decided this evening. Chief among them, there will definitely be new restrictions that do resemble a semi-lockdown of sorts for the non-vaccinated-or-recovered. The state-level response to the "fourth pandemic wave of the unvaccinated" has been linking movement restrictions to local hospitalization rates. This looks to soon be nation-wide policy as well.

At this point, we'll review how Germany's two main concepts are defined.

I. "2G" ("Geimpft" (vaccinated), "Genesen" (recovered)

Only citizens demonstrating proof of vaccination and recovery may attend an event or enter a space.

II. "3G" ("Geimpft" (vaccinated), "Genesen" (recovered), "Getestet" (tested)

Vaccinated, recovered, or tested citizens may attend an event or enter a space.

Effectively, "2G" restricts access for the non-vaccinated. Those unwilling to get vaccinated must submit to a test. Since we last reported on the concepts in use by German football clubs, many clubs and the states in which they reside have switched to "2G" for all non-essential events and spaces. There is thus much to report on when it comes to football matches in the Bundesrepublik.

This week, we will report on the capacity plans, concept plans and masking requirements of all nine hosting Bundesliga clubs. We'll also report more local health data for all nine hosting cities. In addition to the local COVID incidence rate, we'll cite the occupancy rates of intensive care beds in each hosting district, the percentage of COVID cases in the critical care units, and the overall vaccination rate of the state. All data are sourced from a major German paper-of-record, the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, the main area of concern for any country seeking to safeguard public health has been preventing hospitals from overflowing. This remains the case. Accordingly, the politicians of the Bundesrepublik have now agreed that this metric will govern non-essential activities throughout the country this winter.

The new measures do afford the separate states some leeway in implementing the new "2G" protocols. States that have already set and activated hospitalization thresholds, such as Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, can continue along their present course. Others can comply in slightly different ways, even technically avoiding "2G" with other health concepts approved by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

We'll now provide an index of the 18 Bundesliga clubs by state and note the current regulating concept. Note that Eintracht Frankfurt is the lone Bundesliga club in a German state where "2G" might remain optional.

Nordrhein-Westfalen (North-Rhine Westphalia)--Six Bundesliga clubs

"3G", likely moving to "2G"

(Borussia Dortmund, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Arminia Bielefeld, VfL Bochum, 1. FC Köln)

Baden-Württemberg--Three Bundesliga clubs

"2G" now enforced.

(TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, VfB Stuttgart, SC Freiburg)

Bayern (Bavaria)--Three Bundesliga clubs

"2G" now enforced.

(FC Bayern München, FC Augsburg, SpVgg Greuther Fürth)

Berlin City-State--Two Bundesliga clubs

"2G" now enforced.

(Hertha BSC, 1. FC Union Berlin)

Lower Saxony--One Bundesliga club

"3G", likely moving to "2G".

(VfL Wolfsburg)

Saxony (Saxon Proper)--One Bundesliga club

"2G" now enforced

(RasenBallSport Leipzig)

Rheinland Pfalz (Rhineland Palatinate)--One Bundesliga club

"3G", with automatic trigger for "2G"

(FSV Mainz 05)

Hessen ("Hesse")--One Bundesliga club

"3G", with "2G" optional

(Eintracht Frankfurt)

We'll now proceed to discuss each of the nine fixtures individually.

FC Bayern München (at) FC Augsburg

Planned capacity = 30,660 (100%)

Concept = 2G

Masking requirement = Stadium-wide

The Fuggerstädter will set their full allotment of tickets on sale for the first time this season. A packed house for the visit of the larger Bavarian neighbors remains a distinct possibility. The COVID situation within the city of Augsburg itself appears manageable, though the surrounding rural district (Augsburg Landeskreis) approaches critical stage. Three quarters of the rural hospital beds are filled with COVID patients.

The FCA will attempt to enforce a stadium-wide mask-mandate. Patrons will also be required to don a FFP-2 mask in accordance with the club's regulations. The federal state of Bavaria itself legislated an automatic implementation of "2G" based on a "red stage" reached when COVID patients state-wide requiring intensive care beds exceeded 600 state-wide.

This stage having been reached as of Tuesday (November 16th), "2G" now applies to restaurants, hotels, cafés, cinemas, concerts, theaters, gyms, and pools in addition to all public events. Masking requirements are also imposed on such businesses. Schools, libraries, universities, private offices, and hairdressers are still permitted to operate under "3G" provided they adhere to the proper masking requirements. Most retail stores and public transit require no testing or documentation.

The Bavarian cabinet met to discuss further "automatic stabilizers" on Thursday, with Premier Markus Söder freely admitting that the new measures amounted to a ""de-facto' lockdown for the unvaccinated." The cabinet will meet again on Friday, likely to approve further restrictions should current hospitalization rates increase by a factor of two or three.

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 533.4 per 100,000

Local Intensive Care Occupancy @ 82.5%

21 COVID Hospitalizations (17.8%)

Bavaria State Vaccination Rate = 67.6%

VfB Stuttgart (at) Borussia Dortmund

Planned capacity = 67,000 (82%)

Concept = 3G

Masking requirement = When moving to and from seats

There are no major rule changes to report upon in Nordrhein-westfalen yet. Germany's footballing hotbed continues to operate under "3G", though it's entirely foreseeable that the state government will announce further restrictions soon. As has been the case for multiple weeks, the BVB only sells tickets for the seated areas of Signal-Iduna Park. The stadium's full-capacity (81,365) has not been aimed for since the pandemic began.

The club has always reserved far fewer seats for the non-vaccinated-or-recovered. Additionally, the VIP and hospitality boxes have always operated under "2G". Statewide regulations in NRW also place "3G" operations under rather stringent requirements. Those non-vaccinated-or-recovered individuals must present a negative test that is no longer than six hours old. This naturally applies to all football clubs in the state.

One piece of good news relating NRW concerns the fact that the overall vaccination rate (at 74.5%) is the highest among non-city states in the country. Over 13 million Westphalians have been inoculated. Many more have recovered following some isolated outbreaks in the region earlier this autumn. Accordingly, local incidence rates and the percent of COVID patients in intensive care remains relatively low.

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 209.6 per 100,000

Intensive Care Occupancy @ 92.4%

17 COVID Hospitalizations (6.3%)

NRW State Vaccination Rate = 74.5%

VfL Bochum (at) Bayer 04 Leverkusen

Planned capacity = 29,542 (98%)

Concept = 2G

Masking requirement = When moving to and from seats

After some back-and-forth, Germany's red company team has been firmly committed to "2G" since round six. Leverkusen being another NRW club means that the same statewide regulations as above apply. Despite switching to "2G", Bayer do allow exceptions for children up to 15 years of age and university students. As is the case with Dortmund, tickets remain unavailable for the standing bleachers.

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 280 per 100,000

Intensive Care Occupancy @ 87%

5 COVID Hospitalizations (8.3%)

NRW State Vaccination Rate = 74.5%

SpVgg Greuther Fürth (at) Borussia Mönchengladbach

Planned capacity = 48,500 (90%)

Concept = 3G

Masking requirement = When moving to and from seats

Our third consecutive NRW club also proceeds with the same rules it has had in place for several rounds. One expects a big turnout from the Fohlen faithful once again. The more pertinent COVID news coming out of Gladbach this week was, naturally, sporting director Max Eberl's comments on German national team midfielder Joshua Kimmich's decision not to get vaccinated.

Kimmich's status itself remains a powder-keg issue that will dominate the German footballing discourse in the coming weeks.

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 280 per 100,000

Intensive Care Occupancy @ 91%

15 COVID Hospitalizations (18.5%)

NRW State Vaccination Rate = 74.5%

RasenBallSport Leipzig (at) TSG 1899 Hoffenheim 

Planned capacity = 30,150 (100%)

Concept = 2G

Masking requirement = Stadium-wide

The Kraichgauer of Germany's Rhein-Neckar district actually stuck to "3G" when the federal state of Baden-Württemberg was still offering its football clubs a compromise. The reason for this is that Dietmar Hopp's young club had no reason to invite any further controversy upon itself when it rarely fills the PreZero Arena above half-capacity anyway. Hence, the TSG only put 15,075 tickets on sale weekly.

Two weeks ago, Baden-Württemberg linked its statewide regulations to the state of its intensive care unit occupancy. If the number of hospitalized COVID patients exceeded 390 statewide, "2G" was triggered. This threshold was reached on Tuesday (November 16th) and the new measures went into effect Yesterday (November 17th). BaWü's restrictions mirror that of Bavaria, with a slightly longer list of "basic supply stores" under the retail exemption.

Vaccination rates in this populous southwest area of the country are the lowest in what was formerly West Germany. Only the former D.D.R. states have lower rates of inoculation. Vaccine resistance in the area owes much to the emergence of a protest movement in Stuttgart near the beginning of the pandemic. A group calling themselves the "Querdenke" ("lateral thinkers") organized much of the initial anti-lockdown protests.

A controversial political party ("Die Basis") sprung forth from this movement. Despite not coming close to the 5% parliamentary threshold in the recent federal elections, received its greatest proportionate share of the vote (2.1%) in Baden-Württemberg. There continue to be larger anti-vax protests in this region.

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 320.1 per 100,000

Intensive Care Occupancy @ 81.1%

6 COVID Hospitalizations (20%)

Baden-Württemberg State Vaccination Rate = 67.5%

VfL Wolfsburg (at) Arminia Bielefeld

Planned capacity = 25,000 (91%)

Concept = 2G

Masking requirement = when moving to and from seats

The East Westphalians have officially switched to "2G" even though state guidelines still permit them to do otherwise. The DSC have also reduced their allotment, adjusting so that the standing bleachers are not offered. The fourth NRW club that we're covering this week cited safety as a means for the reduction.

In a concurrent messaging push aimed at the fans, sporting director Samir Arabi was sent on a press offensive this week to assure all supporters of the club that the measures were temporary and that the club "in no way contemplated" shutting out live fans again.

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 210.5 per 100,000

Intensive Care Occupancy @ 93.5%

16 COVID Hospitalizations (12.4%)

NRW State Vaccination Rate = 74.5%

Hertha BSC (at) 1. FC Union Berlin

Planned capacity = 22,012 (100%)

Concept = 2G

Masking requirement = when moving to and from seats

The big news of the week is that the highly anticipated capital city derby will take place before (potentially) before a full-house at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei. This could be the first full-capacity crowd in Köpenick since the pandemic began. Ironically enough, it comes the same week that the Berliner Senate opted to move to "2G" across the city.

Perhaps wary of an untimely fight with FCU President Dirk Zingler, the only demand the Senate made on Union concerned a ban on all alcohol sales. Those following the saga of Bundesliga fans returning to stadiums know that Union, more so than any other top tier club, have remained at the forefront of this issue.

Even during the "Geisterpiel Era", Union fans could report to the stadium to receive free tests and later free vaccinations. Fans turning up on Saturday night can still receive either when reporting to the venue should they so desire. The capital city's "2G" mandate covers even more businesses than in Bavaria or Baden-Württemberg. Not even hairdressers can operate with "3G" anymore.

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 340.7 per 100,000

Intensive Care Occupancy @ 91.8%

171 COVID Hospitalizations (16%)

Berlin City-State Vaccination Rate = 70.7%

Eintracht Frankfurt (at) SC Freiburg

Planned capacity = 22,300 (64.2%)

Concept = 2G

Masking requirement = stadium wide

The second Baden-Württemberg city hosting a match this weekend automatically switches to "2G" in accordance with the statewide mandate. There is a slight numerical discrepancy in the German press. Some sources still report that the Breisgauer plan to offer a full allotment of 34,700 seats at the Europa Park Stadion. This doesn't correlate with the fact that the club has publicly announced that it will not offer tickets for the standing bleachers.

This report takes the club at its word and thus subtracts the bleachers from the calculus. The SC also claims that it will enforce a stadium-wide mask mandate, even for those remaining in their seats. One doesn't expect a great deal of resistance in this southern portion of Baden-Württemberg, with most of the "Querdenke" activity concentrated further north in cities like Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, and Mannheim.

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 309.7 per 100,000

Intensive Care Occupancy @ 76.6%

22 COVID Hospitalizations (12.9%)

Baden-Württemberg State Vaccination Rate = 67.5%

FC Köln (at) FSV Mainz 05

Planned capacity = 30,000 (90%)

Concept = 2G/3G

Masking requirement = when moving to and from seats

Our final hosting city of the weekend, situated in the Palatinate, will be seeking its largest capacity crowd since the pandemic. Furthermore, the Pfälzer still have state clearance to utilize their 2G/3G hybrid system under their state's current statutes. The ordinance in use at the MEWE Arena, which we've sometimes referred to as "2G+", reserves three blocks for the non-vaccinated-or-recovered with checkerboard seating.

Like Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, Rheinland-Pfalz plans to set an "automatic trigger" policy that will initiate "2G" across the state. A specific number of COVID hospitalizations has simply not been announced yet. At present, there are high incidence-rate clusters in parts of the Pfalz, but non of the of the more densely populated areas--with the exception of Neustadt an der Weinstraße--is grappling with high hospitalization rates.

Mainz obtained permission from the Palatinate government to place 30,000 tickets on sale before the international break. The previous limit of 1,000 places for non-vaccinated-or-recovered was also waived when the deal was announced on November 9th.

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 181.5 per 100,000

Intensive Care Occupancy = 87%

8 COVID Hospitalizations (8.5%)

Rhineland-Pfalz State Vaccination Rate = 71.6%

Thanks so much for reading!

You can occasionally catch Peter on twitter, @ViceytheSS.

Twitter DMs are open for football conversations, corrections, and (if you truly insist) general abuse. 

All columns debut on Bulinews before appearing on Peter's website later in the week.

Euro 2024

Match days

Long reads

Exclusive interviews

Team News

Europa League - Atalanta - Leverkusen