The final decision by politicians was no longer a surprise: all professional sport had to close the arenas and halls for spectators again. The measure met with criticism across all sports.
Professional sport is becoming a closed society again, the specter of “ghost games” returns for everyone shortly after Christmas: Out of concern about the highly contagious Corona variant Omikron, politicians decided on Tuesday as expected, spectators at major national sports events from December 28th completely ruled out.
“Large supraregional events are no longer allowed to take place with an audience, this applies in particular to football matches,” said Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz. How long this regulation, which was made at the federal-state summit, initially remained open. The first second round matches in the Bundesliga are likely to be affected. Most recently, stadiums and halls in some federal states were still allowed to occupy at least some of the spectator seats.
The decision is massively affecting professional sport. Managing director Hans-Joachim Watzke of Borussia Dortmund had warned the politicians in advance of a “symbolic policy” and showed no understanding for the exclusion of spectators: As an open-air event with a “proven, coherent concept”, professional football had proven to deal responsibly with the situation .
Indoor sports, which are even more dependent on viewer income than football with its billion-dollar TV contract, are hit hard by the measure. In the German Ice Hockey League (DEL), all games will take place in front of empty ranks on December 28th, the Basketball Bundesliga (BBL) will be affected one day later.
In the DEL, the salaries are now often linked to the number of spectators, corresponding clauses should “be drawn now”, as the league manager Gernot Tripcke confirmed to the “SID”: “The clubs will somehow get through the season, but many are for the future really endangered. ” It is “extremely important that the corona aid for professional sports continues to flow,” said Tripcke – and to a greater extent: “But it is not enough just to extend it.”
Judicial resistance is not to be expected (for the time being)
The handball Bundesliga (HBL) is lucky that the game will be suspended until February 9th due to the European championship. It seems at least questionable whether the audience will return by then.
Serious resistance in the form of legal disputes is (for the time being) not to be expected. Because: The lockdown is looming – and this political measure would threaten the very existence of many clubs. Before the federal-state summit on Tuesday, the Robert Koch Institute demanded, among other things, a “ban on major events” and the “closure of indoor sports facilities” as immediate measures in its strategy paper.
A shutdown would be “equivalent to a professional ban” and must be averted with all might, said HBL managing director Frank Bohmann. In order to avoid the worst case, the professional leagues are currently pushing a booster vaccination of their players. The current winter break is a good time for the prick, especially for footballers.
Worldwide consequences for professional sport
A look beyond the national borders shows what kind of wave is rolling towards German professional sport. In England, a number of Premier League games are canceled due to corona, but there will not be a break hoped for by team manager Jürgen Klopp (Liverpool FC).
The more than 130 players and coaches who have already tested positive and 50 game cancellations in the NHL ice hockey league will probably mean that the Olympic tournament in Beijing in February will take place without the skate cracks from North America. In the professional basketball league NBA, numerous stars are in quarantine, including the German national players Maximilian Kleber and Moritz Wagner. The National Football League (NFL) also only whips its games through with last lines.
Unlike in North America and England, the spread of Omikron in Germany has only just begun. Manager Christian Heidel from FSV Mainz 05 feared “horror scenarios” for professional sport. One of these will become a reality on December 28th.