The fact that the Bundesliga was played to a sporting end is a success of the DFL and its boss Christian Seifert. But now a much more difficult, second step must follow.
Two months ago, hardly anyone would have believed that it would really be played to the end, this football season that had been slowed down by a pandemic. A tube of toothpaste purchased in quarantine was enough to make the whole construction falter. Here a positive player test too much, there a fan gathering in front of the stadium, and out of the mouse – quite a few expected an abortion of the season, which some fans might even have wanted if the relegation was suspended and the beloved club remained in the league would.
That didn’t happen. Christian Seifert, the boss of the Bundesliga umbrella organization DFL, is now celebrated everywhere for his crisis management. In fact, a game would never have kicked off anywhere without his persistent lobbying for football. Giving football millionaires the privilege of working while children were locked out of their schools, closed bars, and sent millions of short-time workers was a political feat. Seifert has not only expanded the power of this sport over many years, he has now used it in a calculated manner.
Football made the point among themselves
It is a partial success that there are now champions, relegated teams, Champions League starters and relegation participants who have been determined by sport. In addition to the DFL, it was made possible above all by the players who hid the health risk and the spectators who stayed at home when asked to do so. Football has agreed to settle the matter among itself and has not taken advantage of the easing that has long since become commonplace in the real world. In the beginning, the empty stadium was a reflection of the omnipresent absence of joie de vivre, today the extinct arenas look like alien planets, while outside, people are again crowding around the swimming lakes. Nobody in the industry complained about it.
Maintaining the professional football business was only the first step. The next, much more difficult one is to not let the new reality become normal – or to put it a little bigger: to save the football culture. In the Netherlands, fans should be allowed to go back to the stadiums but not sing or shout there. In Denmark, virtual fans were switched on on video walls. People are experimenting with apps that are supposed to transport the acoustics from the couch audience to the stadium. Or thermal imaging cameras for measuring body temperature, personalized tickets, elimination of standing room? All strong tobacco for fans.
The relegation euphoria that broke out at the traditionally DFL-critical location in Bremen shows that the audience is still there, even if it was not visible. The resumption of the Bundesliga was still a back room thing between the league and politics, the fans of the culture should also have a say in the future of fan culture.