RB Leipzig get provisional green light for fans to return next season

RB Leipzig were granted provisional permission on Thursday to allow up to 20,000 spectators to attend their home games next season, raising hopes Bundesliga fans could return across Germany.

The top-flight season finished last Saturday, with the last nine rounds of matches played behind closed doors after the Bundesliga resumed in mid-May following the coronavirus lockdown.

Clubs including champions Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Cologne have been working on hygiene concepts which could allow fans back into their grounds for the 2020/21 Bundesliga season, currently ear-marked to start on either September 11 or 18.

However, RB Leipzig are the first top-flight outfit to get the provisional green light.

The health authority in the east German city has approved the club's plan to allow their Red Bull Arena, which has a usual capacity of 41,000, to be half full on matchdays.

"RB Leipzig has presented a hygiene concept which is sustainable from the point of view of the public health department and which is suitable to significantly reduce the incidence of infections," a city official told AFP subsidiary SID.

"For this reason, the public health department has confirmed the hygiene concept of RB Leipzig."

Supporters would only be able to sit -- the terraces would remain empty -- and face masks would be compulsory.

But the club reacted cautiously, as state politicians in Saxony must first lift the current ban on events with more than 1,000 people and the infection rate would have to remain low.

"The public health department will support the concept in principle if the pandemic situation continues to develop positively," said Ulrich Wolter, an RB Leipzig board member.

The German Football League (DFL) has yet to comment on the developments.

On Wednesday, DFL chief executive Christian Seifert said the league can not decide the number of fans allowed into grounds at each of the 18 Bundesliga clubs as permission has to come from each local health authority.

"There can be no off-the-peg solution," Seifert told daily paper Welt.

"I am not a fan of generally committing to 3,000, 4,000 or 5,000 spectators," he added, as the infection rate varies in each of Germany's 16 states.

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