What we learnt from the Bundesliga restart
2 long months
It had been 2 long months since football in Germany and also most of Europe had been postponed due to COVID-19. With some leagues even deciding to void the seasons with a lot of controversy surrounding how to select the winner of the leagues. The Eredivisie league has decided to end the season and classed it void, whereas Ligue 1 also ended the season but crowned the leaders as the champions.
Football is back
This weekend saw Germany become the first country to restart their football league the Bundesliga. Although football wasn’t really back as we know it, with some serious new safety measures in place. The games were played behind closed doors with no fans present. Staff and players on the benches were sat 2 meters apart and all wore face masks, we also saw some social distancing goal celebrations. With the Premier league looking to restart in mid-June, we look at what have we learnt from Germany restarting.
You could hear a pin drop
Football grounds are famous for their pumping atmospheres and energetic fans singing from that first whistle to the final whistle. Home fans are often seen as the 12 man on the pitch as they aim to intimidate their teams’ opponents with constant chanting. However, this weekend footballs games had a very different feel. Stadiums were empty, which exaggerated the sound of every tackle, player scream, and pass of the football. It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop in the build-up to kick off. Borussia Dortmund played their famous You’ll Never Walk Alone before kick off through the speakers, a song that is usually belted out by 75,000+ fans at every home game, this time though, it could be heard echoing from the stadium speakers.
Easier for the referees
A positive to come out of the weekend’s games was the clear ability for referees to control the games. With the crowd absent there was no noise and jeering at every decision the on-pitch referee made. Referees reported they were able to control the matches with much greater ease and less confrontations. Players would not swarm around the referee over every decision and were often a lot more accepting. It is yet to know whether this is down to less emotion in the game due to no fans reacting to decisions or whether players were scared to form in packs.
Was it a success?
The Bundesliga restart saw 9 games played and 27 goals scored which was an average of 3, which is actually less than the average before the pandemic which saw an average of 3.25 goals a game. That being said, an average of 3 goals a game still made the weekend and very good watch, with many expecting a lot less. Players fitness levels were expected to come into play after such a heavy break, but the weekend saw more distance covered by players on average than before the pandemic too, showing players determination to work just as hard and pick up where they left off.
Both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund got off to a winning start to keep the competitive aspect of the league alive. Star players seemingly raring to go from the off with wonderkid Erling Haaland opening the scoring for the weekend with a typical instinctive finish followed by a somewhat strange celebration in which it appeared the players weren’t too sure on how to celebrate. The DFL have said all celebrations should involve no contact, although some players emotions got the better of them in a few games across the weekend.
Overall the reaction to the return of the Bundesliga was seen in a positive light. The Bundesliga could be seen to many as a litmus test for the sport, as being the first to take the plunge. We believe that not only footballing associations we’re watching the Bundesliga restart but many other sports too who are unsure on when is the safest time to restart. Although the stadiums may have been empty media companies saw huge numbers of viewers come from the restart. Sky posted record viewing figures of more than six million on the restart, with 3.68 million watching the Saturday afternoon games which is massive for Sky themselves and also a big step forward and hopefully a way out of the current hole for these the sports broadcasting companies.
What was the impact on the gambling industry?
Sports betting operators have been struggling since COVID-19 put a halt on all sporting events, with nearly 0 sport on show operators we’re having to find other ways to get revenue in, a lot of this including pushing virtual sports. French horse racing returned last week which gave them a slight lift, but the big revenue generator was still missing. Although some football had continued in other European countries it was clear by the numbers that operators were in need of a league with recognisable names.
A number of operators commented after the weekend games that it was a welcomed return with a lot of punters saying they had a taste of their Saturday’s back. We don’t have exact numbers, but Kindred Group reported their turnover had doubled over the weekend down to live sports showing that this return was long overdue.
First of many?
It is too early to say whether the return of the Bundesliga was the right decision to make I terms of the safety of players and staff amidst this pandemic. It was certainly a welcomed one by fans and operators though. Should the next few weekends continue to go well I’m sure we’ll be looking at the potential of more leagues started backing up in the near future.
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