A definitive hygiene concept is in place and track and trace is guaranteed. And Borussia Dortmund also has a clear, well thought-out plan for the difficult issue of travel to and from the stadium. But the fans will have to remain patient. The first home game against Borussia Mönchengladbach will kick off in front of near empty stands.

When the 58th Bundesliga season kicks off next weekend, which according to DFL boss Christian Seifert will be "the most demanding and difficult season ever for professional soccer in Germany," not all nine stadiums will be closed to spectators. "This is a courageous, but at the same time well-considered step," commented Hans-Joachim Watzke on the news from Saxony that in Leipzig, one in five seats for the home game against Mainz 05 may be taken up, " in my opinion, 8,000 fans are appropriate bearing in mind the differentiated concept that has been praised by many politicians," explained the chairman of the BVB management board. "In such a large stadium, under an open sky, the risk of infection is small.”

In Dortmund, too, plans for a partial re-admission of fans are well underway. But SIGNAL IDUNA PARK will experience another Bundesliga match without fans. "As far as our situation is concerned, nothing has changed", said Watzke: "First of all, there would have to be a corresponding signal from the state government, even if the local health department remains ultimately responsible."

NRW Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann explained why the situation must be assessed differently from state to state. "It makes a difference whether we are in Saxony, where the risk of infection is very low, or whether we are in NRW, where we unfortunately still lie right in the middle for infection rates and experience double-digit daily increases in infections in major cities, where there are Bundesliga clubs based," Laumann told the Ruhr Nachrichten at the beginning of the month. The minister addressed a working group "that wants to find a solution by the end of October. I think we should stick to this in NRW.”

"It's only possible working with each other," Watzke maintains, while also stating: "The seven-day incidence in NRW continues to decline. I think that a partial admission of fans would be possible much earlier than only in November. As long as we stay in the single-digit thousand range with the number of fans, I don't think that outdoors is a big risk - provided that the Bundesliga concept is always implemented. Of course, in recent months, professional soccer has clearly demonstrated to all critics that our concepts are well thought-out and we are dealing with the situation responsibly. Nobody, and this is very important to me in the discussion, wants half-full or sold-out stadiums at the present time."

It is a matter of slowly, in careful, cautious steps, preparing for the return of fans. It could be "a very important and very positive signal", says DFL boss Christian Seifert, "a signal that thousands of people want to and can adhere to hygiene rules. The DFL has always emphasized that containing the coronavirus must have the highest priority. It therefore naturally respects the position of the health minister". As far as the league is concerned, there had been "no demands regarding any timeframe for re-admission or the number of fans in the stadium."

"We would be incredibly happy to have the opportunity to play in front of fans again!"

At Borussia Dortmund, numerous employees have been busy for many weeks planning the appropriate implementation for various scenarios. "We are prepared for everything. Whether it’s with 300 fans, 1000, 8000 or 15,000 - we are able to respond dynamically to any situation. We have dealt with it in an extremely professional manner and we would be incredibly happy to have the opportunity to play in front of fans again, because it would be a step towards normality for all of us, and because it would be a glimmer of hope for all the people who work for our club," explained managing director Carsten Cramer.

After all, 260 of them will enjoy the action live in the stadium on Saturday to watch their first BVB home game since February 29. Together with the official delegations of both clubs, they make up the 300-attendance figure permitted by the Corona Protection Ordinance of North Rhine-Westphalia. They will sit apart with the necessary distance.

Dr. Christian Hockenjos is in charge of developing the overall concept and coordinating with the authorities. Borussia Dortmund's Director of Organization is in constant communication with the public health department and the public order office. The presented concept has been well received there. Since the state government has basically given the green light for fans, the authorities would consider different levels of crowd capacity depending on the latest infection figures. Regardless of this, Borussia Dortmund would not want to stage its first home game with fans numbers in the five-digit range anyway.

"Over 10,000 parking spaces, a massive stadium, 70 turnstiles, distance, masks, who comes and who goes when: our concept is ready," said Hockenjos. If possible, the journey should be made on foot or by car. And DSW 21 (Dortmund public transport) would keep a watchful eye on those who depend on buses or city trains: buses or trains should only be half-full. In order to maintain the necessary social distancing, only every second turnstile at the stadium entrance would be in operation. In the stands, large gaps would be visible with only every sixth seat occupied. And: each seat would also be assigned to a fixed entrance. Fixed "time slots", quarter-hour time windows during which stadium visitors would have to be at the entrance (or much earlier), would provide further relief. Prof. Klaus-Dieter Zastrow from the Hygiene Institute Berlin told BILD newspaper: "You have to dare to do something at some point. And one could also immediately close it down again after the first game that got out of hand. That would be a clear signal for the clubs and the fans: If you want to continue to watch us, then please behave as we have agreed. I would definitely give it a try.”

In some stadiums they will try it. "We are happy that as of today there are possibilities for clubs to play in front of fans again. Every small step back to normality is an important one, it gives us courage and confidence", explained Carsten Cramer before adding: "We shouldn't be jealous, but happy that these steps have been taken, because in the end it's only a question of time when we'll be able to do it again..."

Boris Rupert