Clubs grumble as Bundesliga goes back behind closed doors
The Bundesliga goes back behind closed doors this weekend with Borussia Dortmund leading the complaints against the government’s decision to lock out fans in an attempt to help curb record coronavirus numbers.
On Friday, Germany reported a record 18,681 new cases of Covid-19 in the previous 24 hours.
Amid measures announced Wednesday, all professional sport, including the Bundesliga, must be played behind closed doors until at least the end of November, a return to the end of last season when terraces had to remain empty.
The clubs can survive on money from the sale of the German Football League’s broadcasting rights, but their funds are hit hard by a lack of matchday revenue.
Since the start of the season in mid-September, Germany’s top-flight clubs had been allowed to admit small number of fans, providing their hygiene plan was approved by the local health authority.
Dortmund has posted an open letter on their website questioning the decision to again exclude spectators despite having had their ‘complex hygiene concept’ approved.
“It’s difficult to accept that facts do not count,” said the statement.
“Every spectator in our stadiums was disciplined; nobody was infected in the fresh air.
“However, we accept the situation as it is and continue to do our small part to flatten the curve,” the club said, urging fans to “keep their distance, wear masks, avoid gatherings and parties”.
Dortmund’s home league showdown with Bayern Munich on November 7 will be behind closed doors.
Yet 11,500 fans were allowed to watch a 4-0 home win over Freiburg in early October.
As the rate of infection has risen, so the allowed attendance limit dwindled to just 300 for last Saturday’s 3-0 win over Schalke in the Ruhr derby.
Dortmund’s stance is backed by a study of large events, published Thursday, which found that if hygiene measures are followed, the risk of infection would be “low to very low overall”.
The results are from August’s ‘RESTART-19’ project when scientists collected data from an indoor concert in Leipzig attended by 1,400 volunteers.
For European champions Bayern Munich, all home games since the pandemic hit Europe in mid-March have been behind closed doors on advice from the local health authority.
Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge says they expect “more than 100 million euros ($117 million) in lost revenues” this season.
“Across Europe, every club loses between 50 and 200 million euros in a season that it has to play without spectators,” Rummenigge told German daily Bild last Sunday.
“You can count on five fingers how long a football club can survive that”.
Current Bundesliga leaders RB Leipzig are backed by the deep pockets of Austrian energy drinks giants Red Bull.
Commercial director Florian Scholz says they factored a lack of matchday revenue this season in their planning, as all clubs were advised to do by the league, “but that won’t work out well over a long period of time”.
Further down the league, Werder Bremen are considering furloughing staff.
“We will be financed through to January, then we will look at our next options,” president Hubertus Hess-Grunewald told Bild.
According to reports, Eintracht Frankfurt expect to have used up cash reserves built up over the last two years by the time the season ends in May.
Champions League sides Borussia Moenchengladbach and RB Leipzig begrudgingly accept the decision to keep fans out.
“I think in extraordinary times, sometimes it’s just as important to make a fist in your pocket in the interest of everyone,” said Gladbach sports director Max Eberl.
“It hurts us, but we are not threatened at all, however we know that caterers and also the retail trade are again facing huge problems.”
RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann agrees that something had to be done to curb the sky-rocketing infection numbers.
“Unfortunately, the figures are developing in the wrong direction and we must therefore accept the situation as it is,” said Nagelsmann.