Bundesliga could ‘go under’ unless season resumes, warns Dortmund boss

BERLIN (AFP) – Borussia Dortmund Chief Executive Hans-Joachim Watzke has warned that the Bundesliga could “go under” unless Angela Merkel’s government grants permission for the German football season to resume next month despite the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s about nothing more and nothing less than saving football,” Watzke told Sky Sport News.
“If we don’t play for the next few months, the whole Bundesliga will go under. It will no longer exist in the form we have known it.”

The league ground to a halt in Germany on March 13 due to the virus outbreak, with defending champions Bayern Munich four points clear of second-placed Dortmund in the table.

Last week, the German Football League (DFL) signalled that it is ready to resume from May 9, albeit behind closed doors and with players tested regularly for the virus.

The DFL still needs permission from German Chancellor Merkel and the leaders of the states, who are due to meet tomorrow.

File photo shows Borussia Dortmund’s manager Hans-Joachim Watzke during the club’s annual meeting in Dortmund, Germany. PHOTO: AFP

Some leading scientists and health advisors have been highly critical of the Bundesliga’s plans to resume amid the pandemic. Germany has recorded almost 6,000 coronavirus deaths.

Watzke insisted clubs are not looking for “special” treatment. “We just want to pursue our profession,” he said.

Germany’s top clubs want the league to be finished by June 30 to free up an instalment of television money worth around EUR300 million.

Magazine Kicker claims 13 of the 36 clubs in the top two leagues are on the verge of insolvency.

Both Werder Bremen and Schalke 04 have admitted their finances have been badly affected by the crisis.

Former Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness believes holding games behind closed doors – known as ‘ghost games’ in German – is the only viable alternative.

“In principle, I consider ghost games to be questionable, but in view of the economic situation facing some clubs, they are vital,” Hoeness told Kicker.

Hoeness also backed calls for pay-per-view broadcasters Sky and DAZN to allow the nine remaining rounds of Bundesliga games to be screened on free television to help boost morale in football-mad Germany.

With so many teams struggling financially, there are also calls for the league to adopt a salary cap.

Fortuna Duesseldorf’s CEO Thomas Roettgermann wants salaries capped because player wages are “a large part of the expenses and you are in a never-ending rat race” with other clubs.

“It would be possible to calculate a salary cap based on the total turnover of the respective club,” he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

“All clubs, indeed all over Europe, are currently prepared to talk about this topic,” Roettgermann added.

Augsburg’s Managing Director Michael Stroell also wants a financial rethink.

“Everyone must have realised in the past months that ‘higher, faster, further’ is not always the right way, and, especially in times of crisis, is enormously dangerous,” Stroell told local paper the Augsburger Allgemeine.