When the ball rolls in the 2. Bundesliga again this weekend, only 16 of the 18 teams will be involved. This is because the entire Dynamo Dresden is currently in quarantine after three players tested positive for COVID-19.
Their case has exposed the foolhardiness of the DFL and its club of bringing back football in the midst of a global pandemic. Yet German football is, much like everywhere else, in a very difficult position, given the apparent consequences of failing to finish the 2019-20 season.
At the beginning of last week, Dresden confirmed a player has tested positive with COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus). Two more positive results were then confirmed later in the week, including Simon Makienok, and the entire squad and supporting staff were put into quarantine for two weeks by the local health authorities.
It is clear that their first two games after the restart, this weekend against Hannover 96 and the following week SpVgg Greuther Fürth, cannot go ahead.
And at a press conference on Wednesday (13), sporting director Ralf Minge said they wouldn’t be able to fulfil their following fixture against Arminia Bielefeld with only four days available for training after the players are out of quarantine.
Although he is keen for the season to be finished on the pitch, Minge had been reluctant about the resumption. This feeling may have been shared by others at the club, although this may have had has as much to do with the fact they’re bottom of the league as the obvious health concerns.
Some have cried foul over the convenience of the side that would, theoretically, benefit most from the season failing to conclude, being the one to report these cases. As it stands though, they may be relegated anyway if the season is abandoned, whilst having to squeeze up to three more games into an already tight schedule will do Markus Kauczinski’s side no favours and leave them at a disadvantage in the relegation battle.
Additionally, some suggestions (mostly on social media) that the players deliberately caught the virus are surely no more than wild conspiracy theories, but the team were forced to deny reports that players had threatened to strike over being forced to play. Although it would be hardly surprising with players, at Dresden or otherwise, do have legitimate concerns about playing.
Clubs’ futures at stake
The Dresden case perfectly highlights why coming back in the midst of a global pandemic is a foolhardy act. The DFL insist their ‘concept’ for bringing back football, with games behind closed doors with stringent hygiene protocols, is still sustainable.
However the risk of further cases amongst teams remains very high and the intention to finish the season by the end of June would likely fall apart if this were to happen. For the players, they are going back into action with no more than a week’s full training, and their health is being put plainly at risk at a time when the threat of the coronavirus hasn’t gone away.
Fan groups are naturally against a resumption. This view will be fuelled by the notion that football is nothing without fans – and it is certainly diminished without them – although their arguments put the health concerns first. They also say that football is simply putting money first, although it is pretty clear that that is certainly the case.
It has been consistently insisted that if the season is not concluded, clubs will be placed in serious financial peril due to the loss to TV revenue, and some would not survive this. Whilst early warnings about clubs going bankrupt as early as May were averted with a payment from German rights holders Sky, concerns still remain.
A study this week claims six clubs in the top two tiers are at severe risk as it is due to the coronavirus crisis. The three second tier clubs named by Leipzig University of Applied Sciences are 1. FC Nürnberg, VfL Osnabrück and Karlsruher SC, although the former two have denied these suggestions. Seven other clubs are also claimed to be in a difficult position, including Dresden.
In an ideal world, football simply wouldn’t be considered yet. But clearly, this is not an ideal world and football is, not exactly surprisingly, dependent on TV money to survive. Yet as the Dresden case helps to illustrate, the risks are great and there is a severe danger of distorting the competition.
Ultimately, it’s almost impossible to be comfortable with football resuming, even if it seems it must.