The last one out turns off the lights. On numerous July evenings, those who drove on the B1 late in the evening could still see lights on the third and first floors of the BVB office on the Rheinlanddam. Here, Dr Christian Hockenjos (organisational director) and Matthias Naversnik (head of ticketing) and their staff were deep in thought, making plans to see how to get as many spectators as possible into SIGNAL IDUNA PARK at the start of the season, what the rules would then be for attending a game at the stadium, and how the tickets can be distributed as fairly as possible given the reduced availability.
Shortage management, certainly, and at the same time a great joy for Borussia Dortmund and thus real motivation for the staff of the eight-time German champions is the signal that politicians and health authorities are sending out that games can be organised again for those for whom they are intended in the first place: the fans. The scale of the shortages is clear from the figures: there are normally 1,383,205 tickets available for the 17 home matches of a Bundesliga season in Germany's largest and most beautiful football stadium. But nothing is normal in a pandemic. The final five home games of the 2019/2020 season had to be played behind closed doors – and everyone was grateful that they could be played at all. Various models are currently being tested for the new season – with between 204,000 and 272,000 seats in SIGNAL IDUNA PARK, which corresponds to a utilisation rate of 14.7 to 19.7 percent.
Older fans will perhaps remember the legendary pinboard of former CEO Walter Maahs, who had marked each season ticket in the then Westfalenstadion with a pin. Today, Dr Christian Hockenjos is pouring over the drawings with a pencil and ruler, trying to find the optimal configuration on the stands that meets the Federal Ministry of Health's strict requirement of a 1.5-metre safe distance. At first, it's easy to forget another limiting factor: the amount of space in the hospitality areas between the stands. Hockenjos is in charge of coming up with the overall concept and coordinating with the authorities.
Here, we shine a light on the considerations and provide answers to the most pressing questions. But do not forget that we are in a pandemic and the situation can change every day.
What requirements must be met?
The guidelines developed by the DFL ("possible return of stadium visitors") are being used by every club, working together with the local health authorities, to put together a detailed individual concept. Accordingly, the solutions may differ from Bundesliga club to Bundesliga club. On this basis, Hockenjos and his staff are currently working on the concept for BVB home games, which takes into account the specific characteristics of SIGNAL IDUNA PARK and describes all regulations from travel to the stadium, while you are there and leaving the stadium, and which must then be submitted to the Dortmund Health Office, among others, for review. The Federal Ministry of Health currently has a clear and unshakeable requirement of a minimum distance of 1.5 metres.
How many spectators will be allowed?
On this basis, there could be 12,000 to 16,000 seats in SIGNAL IDUNA PARK, "depending on where we put them," says Hockenjos. Every second row will be empty, as well as two seats to the left and right. In addition, social distancing must also be observed in the hospitality areas between the stands, which are smaller at the top than at the bottom. Accordingly, more visitors can be accommodated in the lower sections.
What the configuration on the grandstands look like?
Hockenjos talks of "parcels" – single seats or double seats. That means: friends or family members are allowed to sit side by side in the lower sections.
Are there standing places in the south stand?
For now (unfortunately!!): no. The cult stand of German football will – as in international matches – be a seated area.
How will travel and admission to the stadium work?
"Public transport first" was, for environmental reasons, a premise of the black and yellow philosophy, which will temporarily fall victim to the pandemic. The concept is that the spectators will arrive mainly by car – almost 10,000 parking spaces are available – or, as before, travel to the stadium on foot from the city centre/Kreuzviertel. In order to maintain social distancing, only every second turnstile will be in operation. Coming in through the north side of the stadium and watching the game from the south is unfortunately no longer an option. The entrances (south, west, north) are linked to fixed grandstand areas and blocks. The tickets are marked with time slots – 15-minute windows, during which the stadium visitor MUST be at the entrance. According to the current planning, these slots should start "preferably not start earlier than 14:00" (Hockenjos) for a 15:30 kick-off. Anyone who wants to provide for all contingencies and avoid as much personal contact as possible is welcome to come before 14:00 and take their seat early. The exact times will be published in the issue on 5 September. Incidentally, the general rule will be: the earlier your entry slot, the earlier you can leave the stadium. You will be directed to the exit row by row after the final whistle. So please include a corresponding time buffer in the plans for your return trip!
Will the tickets be personalised?
No. However, to track the potential chain of infection, it is essential that the buyer leaves their email address in addition to their name and mobile phone number. In the worst case scenario, you will have to state whether you were in the stadium yourself or to whom you gave the ticket. In the case of double tickets, the buyer must also state the name of the second person.
What signals are we sending to the black market?
Efforts to combat the black market had recently been significantly intensified. In times of the Coronavirus, the message is clear: anyone who sells their tickets on the black market "will be punished drastically". That Hockenjos quote can also be interpreted as follows: a visit to the stadium will then be off-limits indefinitely.
Do I have to wear a mask while I am at my seat?
No. On the way to the stadium – please do! In front of the stadium, as well as in the hospitality areas between stands, on the thoroughfares and in the toilet areas, face masks are mandatory. Once you take your seat, you can take it off.
What happens to my season ticket?
Season ticket subscriptions will remain inactive until "normal game operations" have resumed. "We will not take money for something we cannot deliver," says CEO Carsten Cramer, adding: "Until we get back up to full speed, we will not issue season tickets. Instead, we will charge a fair rate for single game tickets. I hope that we will be able to present a viable solution in the course of August.
How will the tickets be distributed?
"We are in very intensive discussions with fan representatives, with the supporters' council and with supporters' association to find a solution that is as fair and reasonable as possible, which is of course difficult if only one in five season ticket holders will actually be allowed into SIGNAL IDUNA PARK," says Cramer. "In order to allow every season ticket holder to visit the stadium for at least a few games, the fair allocation is clearly the focus," added Matthias Naversnik, head of ticketing. We will give the season ticket holders further details by email and in the next issue of "Borussia" (which will be released on 5 September). In the hope of dynamically increasing capacities at some stage after the start of the season, there is also a clear signal to club members: "You're next."
How are the preparations for the season going?
The team began preparing for the new season "with some limitations" in the truest sense of the word on 30 July. The DFL hygiene concept is still in effect. Having presented two negative Coronavirus tests, the first team training took place on 3 August. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, there can be no public training sessions for the time being. This is also done to protect other visitors to training. In order to keep the risk of infection as low as possible, the BVB first team will also not be able to take selfies with their fans during the training camp in Bad Ragaz (10-17 August) at both the "Ri Au" sports facility and the team hotel and will not give autographs. Both during the training camp and after the return, the friendlies must (unfortunately!) be played behind closed doors. On 22 August, BVB will take part in the "Schauinsland Cup" in Duisburg (opponents: MSV Duisburg, Feyenoord), and on 28 August, Dortmund will play friendlies against VfL Bochum and SC Paderborn. If possible, all games should at least be shown live on the Internet.
The Bundesliga is starting later than ever before: Two days after the latest season start to date (16 September 1972 due to the Olympic Games in Munich), the 58th season of the Bundesliga will kick-off on Friday, 18 September 2020. There is virtually no winter break. Games will only stop on the Christmas weekend itself. The last round of fixtures before Christmas will take place from 18 to 21 December (Friday to Monday). On Saturday, 2 January 2021, the games will continue with Matchday 14. The top team after the first half of the season, traditionally known as the "Herbstmeister" or "autumn champion", will not be established until the new year, on the weekend of 19/20 January. With six (!) matchdays, January is the most intense month of the entire season, which will end on 22 May. International breaks are scheduled for October (5-14), November (9-18) and March (22-31).
Matchday 1: 18-20 September
Matchday 17: 19/20 January
Matchday 34: 22 May
The cup competition will kick off the season and round off the calendar year with the second round just before Christmas. Due to the May bank holiday and the high burden on the police, it was agreed a year ago that the league would be paused that weekend. Instead, the two semi-finals of the DFB Cup will be played on 1/2 May. The final is scheduled for eleven days later, on Ascension Day (Thursday, 13 May).
1st Round: 11-14 September
2nd Round: 22-23 December
Round of 16: 2/3 February
Quarter-finals: 2/3 March
Semi-finals: 1/2 May (according to current schedule)
Final: 13 May in Berlin
Qualification and play-offs (one game each) will be held at a faster rate than usual between 15 and 30 September. One day later (on 1 October), the draw for the group phase will be held in Athens. The six group matches will take place between 20 October and 9 December, with one week between games, except during the international breaks. From the last 16, things will continue as normal.
Draw: 1 October
Matchday 1: 20/21 October
Matchday 2: 27/28 October
Matchday 3: 3/4 November
Matchday 4: 24/25 November
Matchday 5: 1/2 December
Matchday 6: 8/9 December
Round of 16: starting on 16 February
Quarter-final: starting on 6 April
Semi-final: starting on 27 April
Final: 29 May in Istanbul