The Bundesliga will go back behind closed doors after the German government banned spectators from stadiums from next week as part of new measures to curb a rise in COVID-19 cases.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and governors of the country’s 16 states passed new restrictions on Wednesday stating that all professional sports, including the Bundesliga, will be played without fans for at least a month from November 2.
The German Football League (DFL) said the decision was “unfortunate” as the past few weeks have seen plans drawn up to welcome increasing numbers of fans.
The DFL said: “The Bundesliga and second Bundesliga clubs developed in the past weeks a health plan for the effective protection of spectators in the stadiums and agreed it with local health authorities.
“Fans and clubs then stuck to the rules with discipline living up to their responsibilities. That is why it is regrettable that this will not be possible for now.”
Since mid-September, German clubs were allowed up to welcome 20 per cent of their stadium’s capacity if local health authorities approved their hygiene concepts and regional infection numbers remained below a seven-day incidence of 35.
Earlier this month, Borussia Dortmund broke the Bundesliga attendance record amid COVID-19 after selling out of its 11,500 available tickets for the match against SC Freiburg.
As the restrictions do not come into effect until Monday, this weekend’s Bundesliga fixtures are allowed to go ahead with some fans present.
However, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Schalke had already announced that their Bundesliga games this weekend will be played without fans, while Borussia Dortmund’s UEFA Champions League match against Zenit St. Petersburg on Wednesday would also take place in an empty stadium.
In Germany, COVID-19 cases rose by 14,964 to 464,239 yesterday, according to Germany’s infectious diseases agency, the Robert Koch Institute.
Elsewhere, Formula 1’s Emilia Romagna GP in Italy has had its plans to welcome 13,000 fans quashed after the Italian government passed a decree that prevents fans attending sports events.
The move eliminates the former rule allowing up to 1,000 spectators at stadiums for football games and other sports. Organisers of the F1 event had this week asked for an exemption to allow spectators to attend the event, but were turned down by Italian authorities.
Imola boss Uberto Selvatico Estense told Autosport, that it is “not in doubt” that tickets will be refunded. He added: “It’s not easy to explain to the fans that the government has changed their opinion in a very short time, because just one week ago they confirmed that we were allowed to have fans.
“So we went further with all the organisation, all the stuff that we were preparing. We spent a lot of money just to be ready for this opportunity.
“It’s late, just four days left until the event, so it’s a very short time to tell people that we cancelled the attendance.”
Manchester United officials claim the club’s Old Trafford stadium is ready to hold 23,500 people while respecting social distancing rules.
United, who play at England’s largest club football stadium, said actions completed ahead of the planned return of fans in October mean it can safely fill a third of Old Trafford’s 72,000 seats.
The club, who last welcomed fans on March 8, said in a statement that it had put “rigorous plans in place to make Old Trafford as safe as possible for fans when they are allowed back”. Safety measures include staggered arrival times and temperature checks before entry to minimise risks.