Germany reboots football behind closed doors
Could English football lose its top spot? The Bundesliga is the first European league to resume matches under strict social distancing rules – stealing the Premier League’s global audience.
A packed stadium. The roar of the crowd, drums beating, nerves breaking, and 90 nail-biting minutes of high drama in which anything can happen. That is what football is all about.
That was until Covid-19 brought an abrupt end to all sporting events. When Germany’s elite football league, the Bundesliga, resumed play this weekend, the game looked and felt very different. They are calling them “Geisterspiele” (ghost games).
To prevent infection, only 350 people were allowed into a 42,000 seat stadium. Playing in eerie silence, the players wore face masks and elbow-bumped their teammates.
But it was, at least, football. And record numbers of viewers tuned in to watch, desperate for entertainment after two months starved of the nation’s favourite sport.
More than half the world’s population follows football, with big games attracting almost a billion viewers. For many, it is much more than a game. It fires the imagination, brings friends and communities together, and turns footballers into superstars and household names.
It is also big business, worth $600 billion globally. And at the top of this industry is the English Premier League, watched by a staggering 4.7 billion people.
And that’s creating a big problem for English football. No matches have been played since 11 March and broadcasters want their money back.
So, could English football lose its top spot?
No, for many fans, the Premier League will always be number one. The open, competitive, and unpredictable English game is what makes it the most exciting and most-watched league on the planet.
Other say, yes, this is the opportunity for the Germans to shine. In recent years, the Premier League has become all about money. The current crisis will cut clubs down to size.
- What’s the biggest crowd you’ve been in?
- Design a game where players must remain two metres apart. Write down the rules and draw a picture to show how it is played.
Some People Say...
“In football, everything is complicated by the presence of the opposite team.”Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980), French philosopher
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Yesterday, the Premier League agreed to allow its players to begin training in small groups, as a first step towards restarting the league and playing this season’s remaining matches. Whether those games get played depends on what happens with Covid-19 cases in the next few weeks. Germany has brought daily new cases below 1,000, but it is much higher in the UK – suggesting it may still be some time before it is safe for matches to take place.
- What do we not know?
- Money may be a big deal in top-flight football, but it isn’t everything. To understand why the Premier League is so loved around the world, we need to think about everything that makes a great game of football. Teams need great facilities, venues, players, and loyal, enthusiastic fans to cheer them on. But what is more important? Football fans are also very loyal to their clubs. How likely are they to switch support to other teams or follow a different league?
- Sudden and unexpected.
- Germany’s top tier football league is comprised of 18 teams and is ranked third in Europe behind Spain and England. It has the highest attendance levels of any football league in the world.
- Strange, can also be frightening.
- This alternative to the traditional handshake first appeared during the 2006 avian flu outbreak and is now back to fight Covid-19. It now even has its own emoji.
- Record numbers
- 652,000 people watched the main game on Saturday afternoon, more than five times the usual Bundesliga audience and similar to normal Premier League viewing figures.
- English Premier League
- The EPL was founded in 1992 to take advantage of highly-profitable TV broadcasting rights. The money from these rights allows the 20 clubs to buy the world’s best footballers.
- The companies, such as BBC, Sky, and ITV, that transmit the games over TV, radio, and the internet.