All Eyes on Germany as Football Returns
The eyes of the world turned to Germany as it kicked off its first match during the global Covid-19 pandemic on May, 22. But this game was unlike any other game before. After a two-month break, the Union and Hertha teams played in an empty stadium with strict hygiene protocols in place. If the strict measures work, Germany could be creating a template for other sports to resume matches.
Leading the Way for the Return of Sports
As lockdown restrictions are easing across the globe, Germany is one of the first countries to resume competitive sports. Football officials from the pioneering country announced that they are confident that their safety protocols will allow the season to proceed. This was only made possible by the German Bundesliga implementing a range of stringent rules for limiting contact, testing and quarantine. After all, football is a team sport and close contact is ultimately inevitable. It’s vital to have contingency plans in place.
The New Face of Football
Some of the new ‘rules’ involve very few physical supporters and no fans onsite. A maximum of 322 people is now allowed to attend matches, a far cry from the average of tens of thousands of people attending top-flight divisions. The select few will consist of essential staff, journalists, hygiene personnel and emergency services and will be split into three zones on the stadium and stands. Less than 100 people, including players, referees and coaches, will be allowed around the pitch. Teams will spend a week in quarantine before games and are regularly tested. Social distancing rules are applied in dressing rooms and with warmups which are staggered. Of course, group photos and handshakes are forbidden.
Excitement, Despite the Facelift
Football players are once again experiencing the exhilaration of the game and fans are able to watch their favourite players score, albeit from a distance. Empty stadiums and strict rules didn’t stop sports-hungry spectators from finally getting a chance to enjoy the action on the field, even though they had to watch it on television. To watch the game, fans poured into the bars that have been allowed to open in Berlin – ones that serve food and are non-smoking. Games are now streamed live across the world and broadcasters are adding recorded sound effects of crowds gasping, sighing and cheering players on. Some clubs even plan to use music and cardboard cut-outs of fans to liven up the atmosphere at matches.
Going Forward, What’s Happening?
Germany’s football federation (DFB) has suggested that the pandemic has given the sport a unique opportunity to implement reforms for the future. The head of the federation proposed salary caps to help make the sport more sustainable. It’s widely expected that football will remain a TV-only entertainment, at least until the end of 2020. Funds due from broadcasters like ZDF, ARD and Sky are some of the main drivers behind the country’s football teams emerging from their hiatus. Funding thus far totals over $324 million, without which most of the clubs in the first two divisions could find themselves in serious financial difficulty.