Germany seeks to reduce crowds at sporting events

The German government suggested reducing large crowds at sporting events on Monday after a weekend where there was one Bundesliga match without a stadium and another with 50,000 people.

Germany leaves policy on sporting events during the coronavirus pandemic to state governments, but there are calls for a more unified approach.

Leipzig played their first game of the season in an empty stadium on Sunday, losing 3-1 to Bayer Leverkusen, as their home state of Saxony has the highest infection rate in Germany. A day earlier, Cologne was allowed to attend 50,000 people in a 4-1 win over local rivals Borussia Manchengladbach.

Several other states have allowed crowds, but capacity has plummeted. Across the country, entry is generally restricted to those with proof of vaccination or proof they have recently recovered from the coronavirus.

A spokesman for outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel, Steffen Seibert, said it was “really difficult to understand why 50,000 people would gather in a football stadium, even if it had been approved”, at the time. Experts say it is necessary to reduce contacts.

Interior Ministry spokesman Steve Alter said: “This disparity among German states during the pandemic in relation to major events – which affects not only sports but also other major events – is untenable. satisfactory. Outgoing Home Secretary Horst Seehofer has said for weeks that it should be eased, Mr. Alter added.

The different approaches are “an indication to (Seehofer) that perhaps it makes sense to respond to this at the federal level,” Alter said.

The outgoing government is likely to leave office next week, and Seehofer’s party will go head to head. The upcoming alliance has yet to determine a successor.

Some politicians in the region have gone even further. Baden-Wurttemberg Governor Winfried Kretschmann indicated the plan Monday to “limit or mass ban” large-scale sporting events, in comments reported by the dpa agency. Bremen’s Interior Minister Ulrich Mäurer last week proposed a complete halt to the football season.

European countries have taken radically different approaches to allowing crowds at sporting events as winter sets in and coronavirus cases increase. The English Premier League has played at home stadiums all season so far with no vaccination or screening requirements for fans. The Netherlands moved to empty stadiums for sporting events this month.

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