German politicians give green light for more fans to return

BERLIN (AP) — More Bundesliga clubs will be able to start the season in front of fans this weekend after a deal was struck at a meeting of German politicians.

Borussia Dortmund said it would now plan to have 10,000 season-ticket holders in the stadium for its first league game of the season Saturday against Borussia Mönchengladbach. Cologne said it’s aiming for 9,200 fans against Hoffenheim the same day.

There was no immediate announcement from champion Bayern Munich about the opening game of the new Bundesliga season Friday against Schalke. Bayern has been trialing plans to welcome back spectators at reduced capacity with social distancing, though the city of Munich has a comparatively high rate of new coronavirus cases.

A conference of politicians from state governments agreed that stadiums can operate at up to 20 percent of normal capacity for a six-week trial period, the dpa news agency reported, citing unidentified participants. Similar rules will reportedly be in effect for other team sports.

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The German federal system puts wide-ranging powers over health regulations in the hands of local officials. In soccer, that created a confusing patchwork of regulations. Some Bundesliga teams including Leipzig and Werder Bremen were already allowed thousands of fans and others none.

The coronavirus pandemic and the loss of ticket income has shaken German sports’ finances. Soccer clubs have held onto TV income, though several have cut costs and asked players to take temporary wage cuts earlier this year. Other sports such as ice hockey and basketball have been hit even harder because rely more heavily on game-day revenue.

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