By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Bundesliga Fan Scene: Updates on Germany's loosened restrictions

When the German Bundesliga returns on February 4th, so too will significant numbers of live spectators at German footballing venues. 

While the German federal government keeps basic blanket nationwide COVID restrictions in place, there has been an extraordinary amount of movement on the state-level this week. 

We're pleased to supply an update on the German footballing fan scene here at Bulinews. 
There's much good news to report regarding the return of live fans to Bundesliga stadiums this week. The loosening of the latest COVID restrictions proceeds at a rapid (albeit, still at a state-level) clip. One fully expects that there will be many further developments between now and the kickoff of the 2021/22 German Bundesliga's 21st matchday on February 4th.

For the moment, the most important piece of information concerns the fact that large numbers of fans are definitely set to return. Accordingly, something else that shall be returning along with the crowds is our "Bundesliga Fan Scene Column" here at Bulinews.

We'll provide the latest updates, segmented by German federal state.

Bayern (Bavaria)--Three Bundesliga clubs

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

Bavarian governor Markus Söder--whom many will recall was the most adamant proponent of the return to "ghost games"--surprised many on Tuesday by stating that he would permit crowds of up to 10,000 at outdoor sporting venues. Restrictions will obviously still apply. Only those vaccinated or recovered will be allowed to attend. All patrons must don an FFP2 Mask. Alcohol sales will be prohibited. Smaller venues are still limited to 25-percent-capacity.

Söder justified the relaxation of restrictions by plainly stating that evidence suggests that the Omicron variant wave has not been a burden on the public health system. The fact that an elected official was willing to put such a statement on record counts as a huge turning point not only for Germany, but also all countries around the world considering whether the time has come to lift restrictions.

The reality that a milder (though more contagious) variant of the virus isn't pushing hospitals to capacity could spell the end of the global pandemic phase. If intensive care units no longer have to worry about their occupancy rates, the "endemic phase" of COVID may be nearing.

Football officials at all three Bavarian Bundesliga clubs have expressed their gratitude to Söder for taking this step. Augsburg head-coach Markus Weinzierl--who's club will be hosting three Bundesliga fixtures in February--extended his personal thanks to Söder at a presser today.

"I'd like to thank Markus Söder personally," Weinzierl said, "This is very important. It's terrible to play without spectators. The 7,500 [25-percent-capacity] will help us and give us a tailwind. The team thanks Söder as well."

Baden-Württemberg--Three Bundesliga clubs

(TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, VfB Stuttgart, SC Freiburg)

After Bavaria announced the loosening of restrictions on Tuesday, another one of Germany's most restrictive states became the next domino to fall. On Wednesday, the BaWü governing regime confirmed that they too would allow up to 6,000 live spectators in outdoor sporting venues. The so-called "2G+ regulation" (under which the vaccinated and recovered must also supply a negative PCR test) will be in effect.

Those wishing to stick to simple "2G" can only allow in 3,000. Smaller venues can fill to 50 percent capacity under the attendance caps. Outgoing VfB Stuttgart managing director Thomas Hitzlsperger discussed a rare bit of good news for his club when contacted for comment by German footballing magazine Kicker.

"We are of course pleased that spectators will be allowed in," Hitzlsperger noted, "but, insofar as the severe restrictions on capacity are concerned, we agree with the statements made by the DFL and our colleagues in recent days."

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

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

Many of the "statements" Hitzlsperger refers to are, unsurprisingly, emanating from Germany's footballing hotbed. Also to the surprise of no one, BVB boss Hans-Joachim Watzke has been among the most acerbic in calling for restrictions to be loosened. NRW clubs can currently host only 750 live fans. It's highly likely that this cap will be expanded before the Bundesliga returns, but there is no official implementation of this yet.

"Thevast majority of Germans are vaccinated," Watzke said last week, "There's sufficient vaccines available for every citizen in the country. In the meantime, we understand a great deal more about Omicron."

"In some cases, we allow indoor capacity of up to 90 percent while people outdoors are being shut out," Watzke continued, "This isn't science. No one understands this anymore."

"There are always people complaining that football gets special rights in Germany," the manager added near the conclusion of his diatribe, "In fact, the opposite is the case. Football has been the victim of symbolic politics. It's such a shame that after two years, most state governors can only think about bans instead of coming up with some marginally logical decision."

Hessen ("Hesse")--One Bundesliga club

(Eintracht Frankfurt)

Watzke and other football managers across NRW have been drafting a letter to their state governing regime seeking clarification on the latest rules. This is obviously a procedural ploy aimed at getting the restrictions dropped. The footballing counterparts in Hessen have already done so. Eintracht Frankfurt's board chairman Axel Hellman joined with SV Darmstadt 98 President Rüdiger Fritsch to launch a formal request to get restrictions dropped.

"We have written a letter to Hessen's Premier Volker Bouffier demanding that the state take action," Hellman said in an interview with German footballing magazine Kicker earlier in the week, "We demand a 25-percent-capacity use of stadiums. Markus Söder has provided a Bavarian way. We now demand a Hessian way of reasoning."

Like Watzke, the oft-outspoken Hellman went into great detail about why the existing restrictions made no sense. After listing all the consistencies between indoor venues and outdoor footballing stadiums, Hellman even went so far to criticize Germany's current federal governing regime for wavering on a national vaccine mandate for all citizens. That topic, of course, is one of the biggest "political footballs" the Bundesrepublik has ever seen.

Berlin City State--Two Bundesliga clubs

(Hertha BSC, 1. FC Union Berlin)

Some may not be aware that there are actually crowds of 3,000 permitted in the city-states of Berlin and Hamburg, as well as the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein. Additionally, the German state of Saxon-Anhalt permits up to 50 percent capacity. It was such that 3. Bundesliga club 1. FC Magdeburg actually hosted a crowd 13,385 strong in their home fixture against TSV Havelse last Sunday.

One fully expects restrictions to be further loosened in the country's North-East. There may be no official word yet, but one assumes that both Berlin clubs are already in the process of lobbying the senate. The Hertha management team--as well as anything and everything involving Dirk Zingler--would seem to suggest as much.

The remaining field

Having covered the big developments, we'll also offer up a few words on RB Leipzig (Saxon-Proper), FSV Mainz 05 (Rhineland-Pfalz), and VfL Wolfsburg (Lower Saxony). Leipzig recently dropped Geisterspiele to allow in 1,000 spectators for the Pokal. The Pfälzer are sticking to a cap of 1,000 while the Wolves only allow half that amount in at present.

As always, we'll be pleased to supply updates as they happen here on Bulinews. Signs point to states acting individually to drop more restrictions in the eight days before the Bundesliga returns. Bundesliga enthusiasts couldn't possibly be more enthused about our league's best asset once again being before the cameras and showcased to the world!

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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