By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Bundesliga Fan Scene: The nationwide "plans for fans" on Matchday 14

This week's "plans for fans" feature waited for two vitally important state-level parliamentary sessions to be completed on Friday afternoon.

News that many German footballing enthusiasts were dreading can now be confirmed. Both Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg have ordered all professional sports to be played behind closed doors. In Bavaria, this applies immediately.

We still do not know for certain whether two hosting BaWü clubs (VfB Stuttgart and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim) will actually be hosting spectator-less matches this weekend.

The executive decision was nevertheless made to publish our full report and update later when more definitive news comes in.

The latest edition of our "fans" feature still contains a lot of information concerning the Bundesliga fixtures set to take place this weekend.

For the third consecutive week, we're pleased to supply the latest public health data for all nine hosting cities.

This data remains available to everyone via the country's Robert Koch Institute.

Updated nationwide maps and assembled statistics can also be located via national papers of record such as "Der Spiegel", "die Zeit", and the "Süddeutsche Zeitung".
Our weekly look at how the nine hosting Bundesliga clubs plan to deal with the issue of spectators this weekend cannot help but provide an incomplete picture of the 72 hours to come. After sweeping new federal regulations were approved yesterday, the question as to what additional measures the states would take up was left open. This was of great relevance to our weekend report since Bavaria (FC Augsburg) and Baden-Württemberg (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, VfB Stuttgart) still hadn't technically approved their plans for spectator-less ghost-games ahead of the weekend.

We received some definitive answers on Friday. Bavaria's parliament approved ghost-games across the state, as did Baden-Württemberg. Only Bavaria, however, made it clear that this rule would come into effect this weekend. We still do not know whether this will be the case in BaWü. Neither Stuttgart nor Hoffenheim have confirmed that they will comply right away or wait until the next round. The matter is simply not settled yet.

A pair of things that are settled across the Bundesrepublik concern the facts that "3G" entry is now officially a thing of the past. All public spaces must operate with "2G" at a bare minimum. Non vaccinated or recovered citizens no longer have access to anything other than essential services (groceries, pharmacies, and gas stations) in the country.

The second issue concerns masking-mandates. The choice of venues to either require them everywhere or simply when moving to and from seats no longer exists. Everyone now has to be masked everywhere. Enforcement will prove spotty at best, but it is officially now the Law of the Land.

Our review of definitions this week is, in accordance with these new measures, now significantly shortened. Only two concepts now apply:

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

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

II. "2G+" ("Geimpft" (vaccinated), "Genesen" (recovered)

Only citizens demonstrating proof of vaccination or recovery may attend an event or enter a space. For areas deemed especially high-risk, the vaccinated or recovered must also present a negative COVID PCR test from the last 48 hours.

To this one might as well add "The Big G". Namely, the one known as "Geisterpiele". One way or another, they are the policy of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, and the federal state of Saxon proper. Whether or not they will soon apply nationwide shall depend in part of the "danger metrics" of local public health statistics, which we've taken care to assemble once again.

RB Leipzig (at) FC Union Berlin

Planned capacity = 11,006 (50%)

Concept = 2G

Under the formula initially developed by the Berliner Senate, Union were entitled to welcome 13,056 fans to the Stadion An der Alten Försterei this weekend. This figure translated to roughly 59 percent capacity. Obviously, this changed with the nationwide 50-percent-capacity cap ordered yesterday. Presumably, the Köpenickers will have to refuse some patrons.

In a highly vitriolic Thursday press conference that we shall cover in greater detail later on Bulinews, the ever-outspoken club President Dirk Zingler railed against both the federal regime and struck back at Bavarian Premier Markus Söder. Zingler went so far as to call the CSU's leader "that clown from Bavaria".

Taking a look at the public health data below, one can see that the "danger metrics" in Germany's most populous city aren't moving up very rapidly. This despite the fact that bars, clubs, conferences, theaters and Christmas Markets have been operating with large congregative crowds. As many have been reading in the German press, Berlin hospitals have also been taking in patients from across the country and a few extra cases from abroad.

We all await the fate of the FCU's coming UEFA Europa Conference League fixture against Slavia Prague scheduled to take place at the Olympiastadion next Thursday. If fans are ruled out entirely, the match will move back to the Stadion An der Altern Försterei. Football may actually influence further decisions by the city's governing body. The Senate could ban all public gatherings with the specific mind of avoiding the sight of this expected crowd of 40,000.

We'll have to wait and see. This writer would consider it a surprise if the Berlin Senate allows the UECL match to proceed under current conditions. Regrettably enough, all of the politicians involved won't be able to withstand the amount of pressure they'll get from media outlets (both legitimate press and social media) across the country if they don't take action.

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 351.3 per 100,000 (+16.2)

Intensive Care Occupancy @ 92.3%  (+1.3%)

217 COVID Hospitalizations (20.1%)  (+0.1%)

Berlin City-State Vaccination Rate = 72.3% (+0.9%)

SpVgg Greuther Fürth (at) Bayer 04 Leverkusen

Planned capacity = 15,000 (50%)

Concept = 2G

Leverkusen will have to refund nearly half of their ticket holders in order to comply with the new federal standards. Interestingly, the public health data out of this NRW enclave demonstrates that a combination of factors can produce some encouraging results; possibly even ones that clear a path out of the pandemic. An infection cluster in this city earlier in the autumn, the club's early adoption of "2G", and high local vaccination rates have the stats basically where many public officials would like them.

In comparison to most everywhere else in the Bundesrepublik, the local incidence rate remains low. The intensive care occupancy rate actually decreases. The increase of proportionate COVID cases in the Emergency Rooms owes much to the fact that Leverkusen can and is taking on extra patients from other locales. Vaccination, rigorous public health policy measures, and a manageable trough that drives herd immunity up can combine to get a certain region to the "endemic stage" of this crisis.

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 331.9 per 100,000 (+51.9)

Intensive Care Occupancy @ 84.1% (-2.9%)

12 COVID Hospitalizations (20.7%) (+12.4%)

NRW Vaccination Rate = 75.4% (+0.5%)

Eintracht Frankfurt (at) TSG 1899 Hoffenheim

Planned capacity = ???

Concept = 2G+ (if applied)

We arrive at our first case of major uncertainty. The Kraichgauer have issued a statement regretting the "tantamount return to ghost games", but did not say whether they planned to allow the permitted 750 live fans or possibly more in this weekend.

The local "danger metrics" can be found below.

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 402.6 per 100,000 (+82.5)

Intensive Care Occupancy @ 97.4% (+16.3%)

9 COVID Hospitalizations (24.3%) (+4.3%)

Baden-Württemberg Vaccination Rate = 69.0% (+0.9%)

VfL Wolfsburg (at) FSV Mainz 05

Planned capacity = 17,017 (50%)

Concept = 2G

We'll act on the assumption that the Pfälzer won't impose any further self restrictions beyond what federal law requires. The club has no reason to when the local danger metrics are considered. The local incidence rate remains exceptionally low and the intensive care units are accepting patients from other parts of the country.

The Palatinate's vaccination rate--strong to begin with--is also trending upwards. Do note, however, that the increase recorded below--unlike the other increases recorded in this column--is based on a two-week interval. A consistent increase of one percent or more in statewide vaccination rates on a week-per-week basis would be much more impressive; probably enough to ensure that the worst of the pandemic would be behind all of us.

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 239.1 per 100,000 (+57.6)

Intensive Care Occupancy @  91.9% (+4.9%)

15 COVID Hospitalizations (16.5%) (+8.0%)

Rheinland-Pfalz Vaccination Rate = 72.8% (+1.2%)

VfL Bochum (at) FC Augsburg

Planned capacity = Geisterpiel

Concept = N/A

We all had to wait until Friday afternoon for the Bavarian state parliament to adopt an official resolution that would legally bar spectators from football stadiums this weekend. After Markus Söder's statements earlier in the week, we all knew that ghost games were coming. The only remaining question was whether they would come into force immediately or next week. We now have our answer.

It was initially anticipated that these regulations would apply through the end of the calendar year. In his Friday presser announcing the resolution, Söder nevertheless left it open how long sports events would be shuttered. One can safely assume that Söder wants professional sports played behind closed doors through the end of the winter. Hence, the lack of a time-frame.

Bavaria's "danger metrics" are still at concerning levels, but at least the overall incidence rate trends downward in most parts of the state. That very likely won't be enough for the state's conservative parliament to consider lifting restrictions anytime soon. Bayern, Fürth, Nürnberg, Ingolstadt, Jahn Regensburg, 1860 München, Türkgücü, and the Würzberger Kickers will all have to get used to playing before empty stands for the foreseeable future.

Despite the fact that the Fuggerstädter have been among the most conservative Bundesliga clubs in terms of their own self-imposed attendance caps this season, the FCA leadership continues to take public stands against the rules imposed upon them. In comments echoing those of sporting executive Stefan Reuter last year at this time, manager Michael Ströll spoke out against the Bavarian plans to close football stadiums earlier this week.

"We are convinced that there is a feasible medium between ghost games and a sold out stadium," Ströll told members of the assembled press on Tuesday, "Spectators in an open air stadium and infection control are not mutually exclusive."

"Populist slogans and restrictions on individual sectors of the economy don't get us anywhere," he continued, "they rather only ensure a further division of society. It's no longer understandable to many that certain areas of life should now pay for the misconduct of political leaders."

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 528.0 per 100,000 (-13.4)

Intensive Care Occupancy @ 89.5% (+7.0%)

41 COVID Hospitalizations (30.1%) (+12.8%)

Bavaria Vaccination Rate = 69.2% (+0.8%)

FC Köln (at) Arminia Bielefeld 

Planned capacity = 13,650 (50%)

Concept = 2G

We've another locale where the incidence rate remains at a relatively stable level. Hospitals in this area of East Westphalia can also take on patients from other regions and are doing so. NRW vaccination rates make this possible. When one contrasts the NRW rate with (for example) that of Bavaria above, one can easily infer how much a extra five percent can make a difference with regard to incidence rates.

The Alm should feature plenty of fans this weekend for what is a significant regional derby of sorts. Having had likely planned for greater capacity, the DSC will still have to refund tickets and refuse patrons. As expressed in earlier columns, virtually all German football enthusiasts carry with them the sincere wish to see this venue filled to capacity at least once before the season is out.

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 256.4 per 100,000 (+45.9)

Intensive Care Occupancy @ 92.4% (-0.9%)

24 COVID Hospitalizations (18.6%) (+6.2%)

NRW Vaccination Rate = 75.4% (+0.5%)

FC Bayern München (at) Borussia Dortmund

Planned capacity = 15,000 (18.4%)

Concept = 2G

If you guessed that outspoken BVB boss Hans-Joachim Watzke would have something to say about the new restrictions his club was forced to deal with this week, you guessed correctly. The new federal mandates couldn't have been timed worse for Acki, who had to announce huge financial losses to the general meeting this week; coincidentally the same week that Borussia Dortmund incurred even greater financial losses thanks to their Champions' League elimination.

Watzke was a little bit more revered when speaking to club members and stakeholders this week. The 62-year-old executive acknowledged "the need for spectator reductions" and stressed that the club was prepared to comply. Following that, he called the new rules "entirely too restrictive" and "out of proportion" before proclaiming that "football is way ahead of the rest of Germany when it comes to hygiene concepts."

Like many others, Watzke's case brought up the issue of "un-informed populism". This buzzword appears often in this debate and is meant to suggest that politicians aren't making decisions based on data, but rather kow-towing to "call out culture" the masses tend to employ on social media. Effectually, Watzke and others label politicians fearful of people posting pictures of crowds online and attacking their leaders.

One can form one's own position on such a stance. The point of bringing it up at all here was merely to make that side of the issue clear.

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 271.9 per 100,000 (+62.3)

Intensive Care Occupancy @ 93.7%(+1.3%)

18 COVID Hospitalizations (6.8%) (+0.5%)

NRW Vaccination Rate = 75.4% (+0.5%)

Hertha BSC (at) VfB Stuttgart 

Planned capacity = ???

Concept = 2G (if applied)

We arrive at our second case of major uncertainty. Thomas Hitzlsperger himself released a statement expressing his disappointment with the BaWü ruling and defending the club's hygiene concept as "very successful".

The local "danger metrics" can be found below.

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 345.2 per 100,000 (+11.2)

Intensive Care Occupancy @ 88.2% (-3.0%)

53 COVID Hospitalizations (24.4%) (+4.6%)

Baden-Württemberg Vaccination Rate = 69.0% (+0.9%)

SC Freiburg (at) Borussia Mönchengladbach

Planned capacity = 15,000 (27.7%)

Concept = 2G

There will be many unhappy fans in this Western region of the Bundesrepublik after a huge refund/re-sale almost on the scale of that of Borussia Dortmund. Given the fall in the local incidence rate, there's even likely to be some consternation over why the West Prussians must drastically reduce their spectator allowance when the "danger metrics" are headed in the other directions and hospitals are taking on non-local patients.

There isn't much to add here other than the fact that the act of cancelling, refunding, then re-selling puts a great deal of pressure on club and fans alike. Gladbach have quietly complied thus far, but may become one of the more vocal opponents of these new restrictions. After all, the club has relied on a strict hygiene concept and checkerboard seating since the beginning of the season.

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 204.9 per 100,000 (-75.1)

Intensive Care Occupancy @ 94.2% (+3.2%)

15 COVID Hospitalizations (18.4%) (-0.1%)

NRW Vaccination Rate = 75.4% (+0.5%)

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.

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