Frankfurt (Germany) – The upcoming season will be more challenging than last term, Christian Seifert, the head of the German Football League (DFL), said on Thursday.
His comments have come in an era where the coronavirus crisis has been continuing and different local authorities have agreed different rules on the return of fans.
Clubs from the Bundesliga and second division held a video conference where it was agreed that teams could continue with five substitutions in the new season starting on Sept. 18.
The number was increased from three last season because of the pandemic.
But there was less clarity from the virtual meeting about what will happen with fans this season.
Games were played behind closed doors when last season resumed from the coronavirus hiatus in May and June.
But local authorities have given RB Leipzig the go-ahead for 8,500 socially-distanced fans this term, the first Bundesliga side to receive such permission.
The issue and developments in the health crisis led DFL chief executive Seifert to make a major pronouncement at a news conference.
He said the new season would be “the most demanding and difficult season of professional football in Germany.
“The organisation and execution of this season will be many times more complicated than the end of last season,” he added.
German supporter organisation Unsere Kurve and Bayern state premier Markus Soeder have criticised the RB Leipzig plans.
“We think that self-interest is clearly in the foreground here,” Unsere Kurve director Jost Peter said.
Remarking on the club’s links to energy drinks maker Red Bull, he said it was not surprising “that a marketing company that plays football on the side is going it alone.’’
The fan group wants an overarching approach from the league to a return for fans not a patchwork system which relies on which German state the clubs are based.
“Football must not overestimate its importance,” added Peter, saying: “You can talk about distortion of competition.”
Top German politicians had said September would be too soon for some fans to return to stadiums but Germany’s federal system leaves the decisions up to the states.
A nationwide decree may not come until the end of October.
The German Cup will also have different rules on fans to the Bundesliga.
Soeder, tipped by many to be Angela Markel’s successor as chancellor, remains wary of letting a limited number of supporters back in.
“To allow football matches with fans again now, while at the same time the infection figures are rising, will be a bad signal,” he told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper.
“A club with fans, the others without — that can’t be in the interest of either the league or the sport,” added the 53-year-old, who also wants “uniform rules for the Bundesliga.”
“I think it is far too high-minded to talk about distortion of competition,” he said.
“Whether fans coming back is the right question to be posing in the current situation is absolutely justified and must be asked,” he added.
However, the DFL chief executive said spectators making a limited return to stadiums could also be “a very important and very positive sign.
“A sign that thousands of people are willing and able to comply with hygiene rules,” Seifert said.