‘Ghost games’ could help German clubs survive
March 31 2020 01:12 AM

No one in the football community was happy with games behind closed doors before the coronavirus brought play to a standstill for good.
But now such games could help clubs survive, once play is possible again.
Former German Football League (DFL) managing director Andreas Rettich has even suggested such “ghost games,” as they are called in the country, “could contribute to the diversion and thus to the well-being of people.”
The 36 Bundesliga and second division clubs of the DFL come together today for an emergency assembly to discuss the options, with play now suspended for a fortnight, at least until April 30, and possibly beyond.
No one knows whether the season can be completed at all amid the pandemic and strict government lockdown rules — with nine Bundesliga rounds still to be played, and the German cup at the semi-final stage.
And while clubs and fans were more than unhappy with some games behind closed doors before the shutdown, the mood is changing, mainly for financial reasons.
Failing to complete the league season would cost clubs some 750mn euros and put the existence of several of them in severe danger. Being able to play on at some stage would cushion the impact considerably.
“If that’s the only way to save clubs, you have to accept it gratefully,” RB Leipzig midfielder Kevin Kampl said yesterday.
“Sure it’s not nice for the fans, but I think that they will understand and will endure having to watch a few games from home.”
Leipzig sports director Markus Kroesche said last week such matches “cannot be prevented” because all major European leagues aim to complete their seasons and it was “secondary in this context” whether fans were at the game or not.
VfB Stuttgart president Claus Vogt said that not being able to complete the season would create “existential problems” for his club and others.
Players and officials have already agreed to wage freezes or cuts, and the four German Champions League teams Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen have created a solidarity fund of 20mn euros for the DFL to distribute.
Clubs will suffer even if the season can be played this way as for many of them ticket sales are also a big source of income.
According to estimates, champions Bayern Munich,
who have a minimum six home games left, would lose at least 16.2mn euros, Borussia Dortmund up to 15mn euros, and even a small club like Union Berlin or Freiburg 4 and 3.2mn euros, respectively.
Rettich acknowledges that football is the least the government has on its mind at the moment — despite being the employer of some 55,000 people and a turnover of some 5bn euros.
But he insisted that the world’s most popular sport could still contribute with its feel-good factor for the population, even if the fans remain barred from the stadiums.
“It gains in importance every day due to the current contact ban and the social isolation that comes with it,” Rettich said.

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