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German officials nix idea of Bundesliga fans in stands at start of new season

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Markus Soder, one of Germany's most influential politicians, has said it would "send a disastrous signal to the public" to allow supporters back into Bundesliga stadiums in September.

The Bundesliga was the first major European league to return in mid-May amid the coronavirus pandemic after working out a detailed concept to bring back football without fans.

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Soder is just one of many political voices to address his fears of fans returning to stadiums.

"Thousands of fans in the stadiums -- that doesn't fit with the current situation with infections. Now it's about not taking any unnecessary risks,'' national health minister Jens Spahn said on Twitter of the coronavirus pandemic on Monday.

"The league's concept is good in theory,'' Spahn said. "But what's decisive is what happens every day in practice.''

In a follow-up tweet, Spahn added, "We feel that we have to stay alert. Having spectators in the stands would be the wrong signal in the current situation.''

"Professional football is not on top of our list," Berlin health senator Dilek Kalayci said on Monday ahead of a conference of all German ministers of health where the return of fans was also set to be discussed.

There has been a surge in new coronavirus cases in Germany after the reopening of schools following the summer holidays in several states, fans at stadiums could remain unlikely when the campaign resumes. Mass events across the country are banned until the end of October.

Last week, German Football League (DFL) boss Christian Seifert said that he hoped some fans could return once the new season kicks off on Sept. 18. Clubs agreed on an alcohol ban, standing tickets and away support to open the door on a percentage of fans attending league games again.

However, Seifert added that ultimately the decision remained in the hands of the political decision-makers.

"It would send a disastrous signal to the public with regard to medical capacities as well as the cultural events," Soder, Bavaria's minister president and possible successor to Angela Merkel as German chancellor in 2021, told a news conference on Monday.

"I've backed the Bundesliga starting with games behind closed doors. But I am very sceptical about having full stadiums for the Bundesliga start. I can't imagine that."

Because of Germany's federal system as well as the different conditions at each of the 36 stadiums, clubs have worked on individual concepts within the framework of the guidelines presented to them by the DFL. Local authorities would have to green light the return.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.