The Bundesliga is set to become the first major European league to return this weekend. However, with all games set to be played behind closed doors, authorities have threatened to stop the action again if fans ignore warnings to stay away from stadiums.
Although all games will be played in the absence of supporters for the foreseeable future, there is a concern that fans will still be tempted to gather outside grounds whilst matches are in progress. The one match that was played behind closed doors before the suspension of the season, Borussia Mönchoengladbach’s home win over Cologne on March 11th, saw thousands of people congregate outside Borussia’s ground.
But if there is a repeat of that, authorities will not hesitate to bring a halt to proceedings once more.
Germany has the highest average fan attendance at matches in Europe, and the acid test may well be Saturday’s Ruhr derby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04. That game at the Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund would normally draw a capacity crowd of 82,000, so all eyes will be on what happens outside the stadium there.
There is a fear that some ultras – hard-core fans who normally lead the chanting at the games, and a minority of whom have been associated with football violence in the past – may deliberately try and flout the rules in order to get the action stopped.
Many ultra-groups are opposed to the resumption of the season, which they believe is being done for economic reasons rather than with the interests of fans at heart. And there are some within their ranks who think that it is unethical for football to return at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic in the country is still not fully contained.
Germany was one of the countries where the coronavirus outbreak appeared to have been contained due to government measures imposed. However, with the easing of some of those restrictions recently, the number of new cases reported has started to rise again.
In an effort to dissuade fans going to grounds or congregating in bars or public places, broadcaster Sky has already said that it is prepared to show some of the weekend’s games on a free to air channel.