Football is back. The German Bundesliga is starting May 16th and is the first major European league to start amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The news came just days after the French league announced the season is over and assigned the title to PSG, without playing the remaining matches, showing a completely different line of actions between the two countries.
The Bundesliga’s last match was on the 11th of March but the league was officially suspended on the 13th, a few days later than the other major European leagues. The reason that pushed the German league to play one more fixture than other leagues was purely about TV rights money, as Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge had confirmed to DW Sports upon the halt of the league.
— DW Sports (@dw_sports) March 13, 2020
“TV rights in Germany are not being paid at once but are paid kind of every couple of months, it’s kind of instalments. So they said it was necessary to play one more weekend to have one more fixture day to basically pay out the rest of the fees,” journalist Ena Bilobrk told the Sports Gazette.
“It was especially important for football clubs that really depend on TV rights.”
Different from the Premier League, the Bundesliga title-race is far from over as the first three teams are within five points from each other with Bayern Munich leading with 55 points, followed by Borussia Dortmund with 51 and RB Leipzig with 50 points.
The league will start on Saturday, May 16th with only nine match days remaining to the end of the season.
Every remaining match will be played behind closed doors, and new health and hygiene regulations are in place. There will be regular screenings for the players, referees and staff members. All the players are subject to a two-week quarantine in the build up to matchday.
The first match is the local derby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04, it will be played behind closed doors and for Dortmund, it will be a big challenge in their run to close the four-point gap to Bayern Munich.
“It will be a great way to start, but obviously it’s a game that really depends on fans — the ultras, especially Dortmund’s, are probably known worldwide as one of the best fans. It will be really strange to see that game without any spectators,” said Bilobrk.
Bayern Munich has an easier task as it will face Union Berlin in an away game. Bilobrk argued that such a game would depend a lot on the fans and it would have made a big difference for Union Berlin to have the home fans supporting them.
“Now it’s like on the training pitch, so I’m pretty sure that Bayern will prevail,” Bilobrk said.
Nine and a half weeks of pause could change the ambitions of title-race contenders. The game will come more to which team has the best ability to cope with this unprecedented situation and to deal with the pressure.
“To be honest, I think generally the team that can cope with the pressure the best are Bayern Munich. They show it every year, they’ve shown it last year when they won the title on the last match day. It just tells that other teams such Dortmund crumble when it comes to being put on intense pressure,” Bilobrk said.
Being the first, and only, major European league to restart, the Bundesliga has the opportunity to attract more fans to German football.
People won’t have many alternatives to choose from, it will be beneficial for the Bundesliga to have many more people around the world and especially around Europe to watch the league.