Coronavirus pandemic

Bundesliga return not just about money: Dortmund MD

Clockwise, from left: Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke, managing director Carsten Cramer, and BVB Asia Pacific managing director Suresh Letchmanan
Clockwise, from left: Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke, managing director Carsten Cramer, and BVB Asia Pacific managing director Suresh LetchmananPhoto courtesy of BVB Asia Pacific

With millions of euros at stake in the Bundesliga restart on Saturday, Borussia Dortmund managing director Carsten Cramer accepts criticism that the move is financially motivated, but argues that resumption - under strict controls - is necessary in the larger scheme of things.

The German top flight, which has been suspended since March 13 owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, is set to become the first major European football league to kick off again this weekend. Five closed-door fixtures are scheduled for Saturday, with Dortmund the centrepiece of the action as they host Schalke in the Revierderby at the Westfalenstadion.

In a video conference call with global media yesterday, a candid Cramer said that the German public is split down the middle about the decision to resume the campaign.

He also told The Straits Times the club is missing out on €3 million (S$4.62 million) in revenue for each of the remaining five home games postponed during this two-month suspension, but has not sought financial aid from the government.

He said: "Of course, it is an economic question to restart the Bundesliga. We have to be honest and it doesn't make sense to use arguments to hide the real argument.

"We are a business sector that has professional players and more than 60,000 people around the country who are directly or indirectly dependent on football. But I'm very sure that in time, people will be more excited about the football and be glad that some normal life is coming back."

Dortmund's players have been tested four to five times now, once every three to four days, without any positive cases. The team checked into a hotel a week before kick-off, leaving the premises only for training. On match day, only eight and four representatives from the respective home and away teams and 11 media personnel are allowed in the stadium.

The security and police will be present to ensure there are no public gatherings of more than three people outside the stadium. Cramer said the club have regular communication with their fans and he is confident they will respect the rules.

Citing factors like Euro 2021, which Cramer said cannot be postponed again, and player contracts, he said it was imperative for the Bundesliga restart to work so that the season can conclude by June 30.

He added: "I can't give you a 100 per cent guarantee that we will make it until the end. But I can promise you... everyone is fighting 24/7 to finalise this project because we know if we fail, the problems after will be even bigger than before."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2020, with the headline 'Bundesliga return not just about money: Dortmund MD'. Subscribe