While the rest of top-flight European football still lingers in hiatus, Germany’s Bundesliga returned to play on Saturday 16th of May. While the return of football in Germany had been criticized by some, so far both clubs and broadcasters have benefitted from the resumption of play.
However there have had to be some fairly significant changes in how the league operates and it will now play behind closed doors until 2021.
In this article, we’ll be looking at those changes, how they’ve been implemented, and what effect they’ve had on the success of the Bundesliga’s return.
Behind Closed Doors
The first and most obvious change to the league is the fact that matches are now being played behind closed doors.
While this has been a boon to German sports broadcasters, with a record-breaking 6 million TV viewers tuning in to watch the beginning of the restarted season, it has resulted in a noticeable change in the way that players act during the these so-called “ghost games”.
The lack of fan presence has resulted in players taking fewer risks, with many managers and pundits comparing the feel of these matches to the training ground. There is also a beneficial side to this, as players who perform well in training but are overawed by the matchday atmosphere now have the opportunity to shine.
In some cases, the lack of the crowd has seen play improve, simply because the absence of fan noise has made it easier for the players to communicate with each other and for the bench to communicate with their team.
Overall, player’s time on the ball has actually gone up in closed-door games. This is because there is no need to factor player and fan reactions to refereeing decisions into the scope of the match.
According to the BBC, without the crowds there to perform for, players are much more likely to simply get on with the game after a refereeing decision, rather than roll out theatrical protestations.
A Title Decided by Play
The one thing that hasn’t been slowed down by the new organization of the Bundesliga is Bayern Munich, as they march towards an eighth straight Bundesliga title.
Having recently done away with their nearest title contenders, Borussia Dortmund, through a moment of individual brilliance by Joshua Kimmich, Bayern Munich are now seven points ahead and with Betway giving them 1/14 odds to win their next match against Fortuna Dusseldorf, they look almost certain to extend that lead.
This puts the Bundesliga in a better position than many of the other national leagues who are scrambling to find a way to decide the winner of their leagues while actual play is still on a hiatus, with some leagues allowing teams to vote for the winner of their league.Embed from Getty Images
Trying to Rebuild the Atmosphere
Obviously, modern football isn’t quite the same without the fans cheering their teams on, so some teams have attempted to recreate that atmosphere in novel ways. According to CNN, Borussia Mönchengladbach filled their stadium with cardboard cutouts of fans, perhaps taking a tip from Taiwanese baseball teams who did the same and even included drum playing robots.
Several teams have asked fans to send in banners to be displayed during the matches, including those that are openly critical of the decision to restart the league, in an attempt to continue to give their fans a platform.
Easing the Financial Situation
The resumption of matches, and more importantly, the TV coverage of those matches has stemmed the losses that most German football teams have been facing due to the hiatus.
According to the German Football League, the top two German leagues were looking at a combined loss of over $823 million if the season couldn’t be completed. While much of that came from ticket sales, which cannot be recovered, the resumption of television rights and advertising revenues will be of considerable assistance.
Currently, the return of the Bundesliga has been an unalloyed success, but only time will tell if the unusual atmosphere of the ghost games can hold the attention of the fans.