1. FC Magdeburg. Chemnitzer FC. Hansa Rostock. Dynamo Dresden. 1. FC Union Berlin. Noticing a pattern? Thus far, the German Bundesliga clubs putting forward the most ambitious plans for the return of fans to the stadium have all hailed from the country's East. Western German clubs have more restrictions to contend with. As the case of Eintracht Frankfurt demonstrates, they must also work to appease ultras who want a specific form of football fandom back.
Two West German clubs released their concepts for allowing fans back into their venues this weekend. Eintracht Frankfurt announced a target of 6,500 spectators for their September 19th Bundesliga opener against Arminia Bielefeld while 1. FC Köln said it hoped to welcome 5,000 to 10,000 supporters in on the very same day.
Both clubs had to apply to their local health ministries for exceptions to public bans on large gatherings. The SGE initially applied to fill Deutsche Bank Park with 11,275 live fans, but had to settle for a reduced number. Köln must wait for local authorities to review their plan in order to obtain a specific target number.
Both clubs published highly detailed health and safety concepts of great length. A 33-page-hygiene concept released by the SGE club sparked an immediate conflict with the Frankfurt ultras, who, true to form, lambasted aspects such the exclusion of guest fans and a ban on standing-room bleachers.
Statements from ultra-groups unequivocally rejected fan football in the form it was proposed. Club board member Axel Hellman, a central figure in the development of Frankfurt’s working concept, emphasized with the ultras’ grievances and pleaded with the disaffected groups for understanding.
Hellman acknowledged what he termed “fan-culture stomach aches” while emphasizing that the temporary measures were necessary in order to “eventually get to a full stadium at some point.” One ultra-society, while still warning of “the death of German fan culture”, did concede that the moves were “a step in the right direction.”
In a related matter, the DFL did announce on Friday that is was amenable to allowing standing-room bleachers in Bundesliga fixtures after the first six games of the season. This development will surely please many of the fan-societies who currently use the issue to boycott matches.