The question of the audience is one of the dominant topics this summer. No wonder, because the Bundesliga clubs have played their home games almost without fans since the beginning of the pandemic. The lost income is even causing problems for top clubs such as Borussia Dortmund or Bayern Munich. Although the start of the new season will be played in front of spectators, BVB managing director Hans-Joachim Watzke fears that rowing back again could cost some teams their lives.
The rules for the Bundesliga start are now known. As of today, the teams are allowed a maximum of 25,000 spectators into the arenas. However, these may only be used to a maximum of 50 percent. Watzke describes the 25,000 who are allowed in the Signal Iduna Park as “arbitrary”, especially since as many supporters are allowed to sit in the BVB stadium (81,000 seats) as in a 50,000-spectator arena. There is also an exception rule in Bavaria, which has an upper limit of 35 percent and 20,000 fans.
Surely these are numbers that most clubs can live with and, above all, survive with. However, the appearance of security is a little deceptive, especially since the maximum capacity would drop to 5,000 spectators across Germany if the incidence on site rises to over 35 and the infection rate cannot be clearly delimited.
Even if the corona numbers in Germany currently look good and fewer than 1,000 people fall ill every day, the situation is slowly becoming worse again. The great danger here comes from the delta variant, which is not only more contagious, but can also be avoided less reliably than other variants due to the vaccinations.
The variant that is now also dominant in Germany has ensured that in Great Britain alone on Wednesday (July 7th) loud Worldometer more than 30,000 people are sick. If the aggressive variant spreads so strongly in Germany, the incidence would be over 35 again in no time.
Therefore, BVB managing director Watzke is now sounding the alarm. “If we continue to link our whole life primarily to incidence, at some point we will play again in front of 5,000 spectators,” Watzke fears in a conversation with the WAZ.
The example of Great Britain also shows us how little meaningful it is to just look at the incidences. Despite the high numbers, few people are currently hospitalized for severe disease. This is due to the ongoing vaccination campaign. However, vaccinations often do not protect against the disease itself, but often “only” against a severe course. Since high-risk patients are largely vaccinated, an increase in incidence above 35 would be significantly less bad than before the vaccination began.
Watzke’s anger and skepticism are therefore quite understandable, because after a certain point in time it would be the clubs that disappear from the map. “No Bundesliga club can live with 5,000 spectators this year, there would then be the first bankruptcies. And not in football for a long time,” the managing director told the WAZ.
Only recently did the Bavarians explain that due to the corona pandemic and the lack of spectators, they had to accept a loss of 150 million euros in sales. Watzke also makes it clear that every ghost game costs the club four million euros. “The losses are immense. We can’t do that again,” said the Borussian who will demand more spectators in the arenas in the long term.
The 62-year-old also makes it clear that it’s not just about football, but basically about being able to make life with the pandemic as normal as possible.
“It’s not just about football, but about many, many industries and jobs in the country. When all those who want to be vaccinated have been vaccinated, we have to learn to live with this virus because there will be no alternative to it at all in the next few years”, warns Watzke.
It is to be expected that the majority of people from the sports, music or entertainment industries would also subscribe to this thesis.
However, it will be a while before all those willing to be vaccinated are vaccinated. According to RKI So far, 47,872,792 (57.6%) have been vaccinated once and 33,909,828 (40.8%) fully vaccinated throughout Germany. However, with the first vaccinations we are already dealing with the fact that supply exceeds demand for the first time. A fact that makes it even more clear that the population has to live with the virus in the long term, as too few people are probably willing to vaccinate to keep it completely in check.
For the Bundesliga clubs, a critical phase will begin with the start of the season. Especially when autumn approaches and the numbers rise due to the season, the 35 threshold threatens to break quickly if this is not the case at the beginning of the season.
“The incidences will rise again in the medium term, but because of the large number of people who have been vaccinated, the number of clinical cases will be very low,” Watzke also expects.
It is now up to politics to differentiate more precisely and not to rely on the incidences alone. Otherwise, the arenas may soon become significantly emptier than you imagine – despite millions of vaccinated people on the sofa.