By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Bundesliga Fan Scene: Two of nine fixtures sell out in round 14

As we continue to chronicle the state of Germany's footballing fan scene, our look at last weekend's attendance figures yields plenty of useful data.

Unsurprisingly, only Union Berlin and Borussia Dortmund sold their maximum allotment of tickets on the latest Bundesliga matchday.

After one takes into account two sell-outs and two matches mandated to take place without fans by respective state governments, the five remaining fixtures came in well below the quota that the clubs offered.

All of this points to a relatively stable status quo for German footballing fandom over the course of the coming winter.

We'll lay out how this "new normal" looks across the country whilst reporting on all the attendance numbers and local public health data in round 14's nine hosting locales.
Our column checking in with the weekly state of the German footballing fan scene--since last week cleaved up into a two-parter--first takes a look at the attendance figures from the Bundesliga round just completed. At this stage of the pandemic in Germany, it's fair to say that things have effectively stabilized policy-wise.

After the new federal governing coalition put into effect nationwide COVID policy mandates late last week, the country effectively has the guidelines, ground-rules, and general framework it needs to manage this phase of the pandemic. Germany's 16 federal states also have their individual state-level policies in place, some of which add extra restrictions to the federal minimum standards.

To put it all in the simplest of terms, the rules for the next few months are here to stay. After a turbulent period of rapidly shifting restrictions and regulations, one can safely say that stability shall reign over the coming winter. This applies to most every facet of German public life, including and especially the one we happen to cover here at Bulinews.

Footballing attendance at venues across the country will be restricted to half-capacity with a upward limit of 15,000 spectators. Ghost games will be conducted in the German federal states of Saxony, Bavaria, and Baden-Württemberg. Seven Bundesliga clubs--RB Leipzig, FC Bayern München, FC Augsburg, SpVgg Greuther Fürth, SC Freiburg, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, and VfB Stuttgart--will play without spectators.

The remaining 11 top tier sides will play before much smaller crowds. Barring something completely unforeseen, we behold the status quo that shall hold through February 2022. One topic of interest moving forward concerns whether clubs will attempt to purposefully reduce crowd size by imposing the so-called "2G+" regulation on themselves.

To review the two concepts currently controlling public access in Germany:

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.

Based on the attendance figures from last weekend, it appears unlikely that clubs not required to adopt "2G+" will do so. The smaller crowd sixes indicate that the public will "self-regulate" under "2G". Possible exceptions include the two clubs that did sell out this weekend. We'll touch upon that as we examine the case of each club in turn.

RB Leipzig (at) 1. FC Union Berlin

Planned capacity = 13,506 (50%)

Attendance = 13,506 (sold out)

Concept = 2G

On the same day that the Berliner Senate passed new COVID-control measures for the capital, die Eisernen were able to sneak a larger sell-out crowd in under the wire. Atmospherics during Union's 2-1 victory over RB Leipzig on Friday night were sensational. All Bundesliga lovers shall miss this set of spectators, who also put on the best of Germany's football stadium Christmas Concerts every year. So much for that until normal times resume.

The new maximum crowd sizes of 5,000 should remain in effect well into the new year. They shall already be in effect as the Köpenickers get set to fight for the future of their European club tournament campaign on Thursday night at Hertha's Olympiastadion. As one can see below, the public health metrics trend in the right direction only by the slightest of margins.

A "2G+" switch for Union Berlin remains a possibility.

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 342.7 per 100,000 (-18.6)

Intensive Care Occupancy @ 91.5%  (-0.8%)

249 COVID Hospitalizations (23.1%)  (+3.0%)

Berlin City-State Vaccination Rate = 72.9% (+0.6%)

SpVgg Greuther Fürth (at) Bayer 04 Leverkusen

Planned capacity = 15,000 (49.7%)

Attendance = 10,455 (69.7%)

Concept = 2G+

A considerable amount of vaccinated/recovered local supporters considered it worth both their time and money to obtain a negative PCR test in order to watch their Werkself live. Good to know that the spectators were well compensated for their dual investments. The same sadly cannot be said for the traveling contingent of some 500 Fürth fans, who probably concluded that catching COVID might have been preferable to watching this display.

Local metrics trend upward a bit, but it's doubtful that the club may opt to self-impose some more restrictions. Bayer already go further than the current NRW law requires with their "2G+" entry requirements and the attendance figures above show that such measures compel the local population to opt out via their own volition.

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 324.0 per 100,000 (-7.9)

Intensive Care Occupancy @ 88.4% (+4.3%)

14 COVID Hospitalizations (23.0%) (+2.2%)

NRW Vaccination Rate = 76.1% (+0.7%)

Eintracht Frankfurt (at) TSG 1899 Hoffenheim

Planned capacity = Geisterspiel

Attendance = Geisterpsiel

Concept = N/A

For the purposes of this column, we'll simply label all football matches with less than 1,000 live fans "ghost games". Technically speaking, the Baden-Württemberg state statutes do permit 750 individuals to enter the stadium. Cameramen working the event can easily give a false impression by locating a pretty girl or two sporting a scarf in the stands. Unfortunately, that didn't make keeping close tabs on Hoffenheim-Frankfurt any easier in itself.

The encounter itself had a full Geisterpiel effect to it. We can expect more of the same from this club, VfB Stuttgart, and SC Freiburg over the next couple of months. The BaWü restrictions aren't going anywhere as--for reasons discussed in a previous column--this state's vaccine rate can't be expected to increase much over the next phase of the pandemic.

Local statistics fluctuate so wildly in the TSG's region because the Rhein-Neckar District is actually a rural region with few cities and hospitals. Hoffenheim, even when playing in the district's largest town (some 30,000 inhabitants) of Sinsheim, remain rather literally "the team from nowhere".

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 415.2 per 100,000 (+12.6)

Intensive Care Occupancy @ 86.5% (-10.9%)

11 COVID Hospitalizations (34.4%) (+10.1%)

Baden-Württemberg Vaccination Rate = 69.6% (+0.6%)

VfL Wolfsburg (at) FSV Mainz 05

Planned capacity = 17,017 (90%)

Attendance = 10,000 (58.7%)

Concept = 2G

A vocal enough crowd cheered their Carnival Club onto a 3-0 win over Wolfsburg. There remained a notable enough difference in the amount of noise level from the Pfälzer than would exist under normal circumstances. Matters were definitely quiet enough to keep one's mind sternly focused on the tactics of this match. In the context of the COVID Era, that's actually an unwelcome development.

No data changes in the Pfälzer capital, where one could describe the local situation as relatively stable. The club will likely move to "2G+", further depressing attendance figures in the near future. State-level regulations don't appear to require any drastic changes yet. Some non-essential businesses in the Palatinate are still permitted to operate under "3G".

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 231.2 per 100,000 (+7.9)

Intensive Care Occupancy @  91.9% (level)

15 COVID Hospitalizations (16.5%) (level)

Rheinland-Pfalz Vaccination Rate = 73.3% (+0.5%)

VfL Bochum (at) FC Augsburg

Planned capacity = Geisterspiel

Attendance = Geisterspiel

Concept = N/A

A thoroughly entertaining football match deserved better than to be played before empty stands. One feels for the FCA supporters stuck in Germany's most conservative state. They've been deprived of their local pride just as the team begins to gel and play serviceable football. A haunting scene at the WWK, where not even a handful of bedecked boosters are permitted in.

The good news out of Bavaria concerns the fact that local incidence rates are dropping across the state. It remains doubtful that any more districts will exceed 1,000 per 100,000. As a result, full cancelations aren't a matter for concern. COVID hospitalizations unfortunately remain on the rise, but at least appeared to have plateaued for the time being.

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 407.7 per 100,000 (-120.3)

Intensive Care Occupancy @ 93.9% (+4.4%)

43 COVID Hospitalizations (31.2%) (+0.9%)

Bavaria Vaccination Rate = 69.8% (+0.6%)

FC Köln (at) Arminia Bielefeld

Planned capacity = 13,650 (50%)

Attendance = 8,231 (60.3%)

Concept = 2G

The round's trend-defying and ultimately forgettable low-scoring affair drew decent attendance figures under the circumstances. Bear in mind just how much the live fans opting to come in person must deal with for the simple sake of watching a football match; one in which their team wasn't even expected to do particularly well in at that. As always, there's great loyalty on the northern Teutoburg fringes.

Incidence rates continue to climb steadily in this eastern section of NRW while, to the relief of all, a dangerous hospitalization wave appears to have passed through the intensive care units. Given the amount of restraint exercised by the local populace in the last home match, the club likely entertains no thoughts about switching to "2G+".

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 302.8 per 100,000 (+46.4)

Intensive Care Occupancy @ 87.6% (-4.8%)

14 COVID Hospitalizations (11.7%) (-6.9%)

NRW Vaccination Rate = 76.1% (+0.7%)

FC Bayern München (at) Borussia Dortmund

Planned capacity = 15,000 (18.4%)

Attendance = 15,000 (sold out)

Concept = 2G

Absolutely zero surprise here. Plenty of ticket-seekers would be turned away for the Bundesliga's premier summit. Dortmund could have cancelled the Friday sale of 15,000 tickets, made an about face and placed another 15,000 tickets on sale, and thousands of patrons would have paid twice to ensure that the next allotment sold out in 20 minutes.

We could see a move to "2G+" on behalf of the BVB as a means of instilling additional crowd reduction measures. Nordrhein-Westfalen being such a footballing hotbed--and there being Dortmund supporters in every last burgh--means that one won't see much reticent in snatching up tickets. Of course, that hardly matters in an open-air venue as large as Signal Iduna.

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 287.9 per 100,000 (+16.0)

Intensive Care Occupancy @ 91.9% (-1.8%)

19 COVID Hospitalizations (7.3%) (+0.5%)

NRW Vaccination Rate = 76.1% (+0.7%)

Hertha BSC (at) VfB Stuttgart

Planned capacity = Geisterspiel 

Attendance = Geisterspiel

Concept = N/A

It doesn't get much sorrier than this. A pitiful excuse for a football match played in an empty stadium on what is notoriously one of the worst kept football pitches in all of German football. Just like in Sinsheim (above), there were some 750 spectators allowed in. The cameraman got shots of a few fans. Meh. That's absolutely no consolation for those of forced to watch this farce of a fixture.

In the city where the "Querdenke" movement was founded, stats trend reliably upward in probably the largest vaccine hesitancy pocket located in the former West Germany. As everyone's surely picked up by now, Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg have both the lowest vaccine rates and the heaviest restrictions.

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 415.5 per 100,000 (+70.3)

Intensive Care Occupancy @ 90.4% (+2.2%)

65 COVID Hospitalizations (28.8%) (+4.4%)

Baden-Württemberg Vaccination Rate = 69.6% (+0.6%)

SC Freiburg (at) Borussia Mönchengladbach

Planned capacity = 15,000 (27.7%) 

Attendance = 10,025 (66.8%)

Concept = 2G

Following the 5-0 defeat of Bayern München in the Pokal some weeks back, the Gladbach fans got a taste of their own medicine. Yikes. Too late to offer everyone refunds for this? Good thing the foals aren't operating under "2G+" just yet. At a bare minimum, the BMG would have needed to consider compensating everyone for their negative PCR tests.

Gladbach happens to be one of forty some odd districts in the Bundesrepublik exhibiting incidence rates more in line with the targets aimed for at the beginning of the pandemic. The local hospitals, with extra capacity, are reported to be taking in extra patients from across the the country and even some from just across the neighboring western border.

Local RKI Incidence Rate = 156.4 per 100,000 (-75.1)

Intensive Care Occupancy @ 94.4% (+0.2%)

18 COVID Hospitalizations (21.4%) (+3.0%)

NRW Vaccination Rate = 76.1% (+0.7%)

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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