By Samindra Kunti
December 23 – Top-flight football in both Germany and Belgium will return to being played behind closed doors to combat a spike in coronavirus infections because of the Omicron variant.
German authorities ruled that from December 28 public at major national sporting events, including the Bundesliga, as well as cultural events will be banned. The second half of the Bundesliga will kick off on January 7 with a ‘ghost game’ between Bayern Munich and Borussia Mönchengladbach.
In a statement, the DFL, the ruling body in charge of professional football, said: “The temporary restrictions … are regrettable, but understandable.” The DFL called for fans to “get vaccinated as soon as possible or refresh your vaccination!”
Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke however protested the ban on spectators saying: “Professional football in Germany has coherent plans as outdoor events with already significantly reduced spectator capacity.”
An outcry from other club directors followed. Cologne managing director Alexander Wehrle stated that his club stood to lose €1.8 million for every match played behind closed doors and Bayern Munich officials calculated that the club will incur losses between €4 million to €5 million per home game.
Watzke said that football had shown in the past that it has the protocols to deal with the virus in a responsible way.
East of the border, Belgian authorities also told football to play matches behind closed doors. This weekend’s matches in the top flight, the last round before the winter break, will be immediately affected.
“The decisions of the committee are a heavy blow to our sector,” said the Pro League in a statement. “We will continue to consult with the authorities and insist on re-admitting the public as soon as possible in January, with the resumption of competition, in the safest conditions.”
The Pro League also suggested that “compensation” should be considered.
In the local media, AA Gent president Ivan de Witte lamented the consequence of the spectators’ ban. He said: “In January, we are talking about 3 home games. Then you calculate a loss of revenue of €2 million. Add to that a loss of €20 million for the previous covid period and also think about the new measures at fiscal and social level. Then we will suffer greatly.”
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