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Dortmund chief argues against football behind closed doors

Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke has criticised the decision to put Bundesliga matches back behind closed doors due to high numbers of Covid-19 in Germany.

Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke (L), wearing a face mask, watches a German Bundesliga football match
Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke (L), wearing a face mask, watches a German Bundesliga football match in 2020. Bundesliga games must be played without spectators currently. Michael Sohn / POOL / AFP

Last month, the government ordered Bundesliga games to be played without spectators to try to curb the spread of the virus.

READ ALSO: Covid infections rise in Germany as Omicron spreads

Dortmund are second in the Bundesliga table behind Bayern Munich.

Matches in Germany’s top flight resume Friday in front of empty terraces after a two-week winter break, but Watzke argued for allowing small numbers of fans to return.

“I am not interested in now filling up stadiums, that would be completely the wrong signal to send,” Watzke told magazine Der Spiegel.

“But I think 10 per cent of the stadium capacity would be appropriate.”

Dortmund’s impressive Signal Iduna Park stadium can hold 80,000 and Watzke wants to see it “even 10 per cent” full.

“Eight thousand spectators could be distributed in such a way that they have virtually nothing to do with each other physically,” Watzke said.

“With 8,000 spectators at our stadium, the risk of infection would be low, and to be honest, everyone knows that.”

Watzke says each Dortmund home game behind closed doors costs the club four million euros ($4.5 million) in lost matchday revenue, calling it “hardly economically viable”.

He warns that some German football clubs may be forced out of business unless fans are allowed to return soon.

“This will kill off an entire industry,” said Watzke, the new chairman of the German Football League (DFL) supervisory board.

“In addition, the connection between the club and its fans will be destroyed to a large extent.

“Some of the spectators will not come back.

“As a result, we will have even bigger problems in five or 10 years.”

Watzke also echoed the sentiments of Union Berlin president Dirk Zingler by suggesting “football is being used for symbolic politics” in the fight against the virus.

“Explain to me why music halls can be filled twice a day with 750 people, at 45 per cent capacity, but no spectators are allowed in big open-air stadiums,” he asked.

“It does make you feel a bit let down.”

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COVID-19 RULES

German states likely to keep mask mandate on public transport

Health ministers in Germany's 16 states say that the requirement to wear face masks on local public transport should remain in place throughout autumn and winter.

German states likely to keep mask mandate on public transport

As part of Germany’s planned Covid regulations from October onwards, people will have to wear FFP2 masks on long-distance transport, such as trains.

However, states are able to decide themselves on any mask requirements for local buses, trains, and trams. 

On Monday, state health ministers agreed that they were in favour of keeping the mask mandate on public transport across Germany.

According to the health ministry in Saxony-Anhalt, which currently holds the presidency of the Conference of Health Ministers, the aim is to have uniform rules in all states when it comes to masks on transit. 

It comes after some people raised concerns that Germany would see a patchwork of different rules across the states.

As The Local has been reporting, the Bundestag last week passed a set of Covid regulations that will be in place from October 1st until April 7th 2023.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS – Germany’s new Covid-19 rules for autumn

The plan includes some measures that will apply nationwide, while the states can decide on regional requirements depending on the pandemic situation.

Across Germany, FFP2 masks will be mandatory on long-distance trains and buses as well as in health and care settings, such as GP offices. There will no longer be a requirement to wear masks on planes in Germany.

Approval of the legal framework is still needed from the Bundesrat, which represents the states. That is expected to take place on Friday. 

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