Ahead of the Easter weekend, Fritz Keller shares an open letter in which he gives some detailed analysis of the current Coronavirus crisis that is affecting all footballing operations across the world at the moment.
To everyone involved in football,
The Coronavirus pandemic has given everyone in the world a real challenge. Nothing is the same as it was before, and that goes for German football too. Every footballing competition in the country has been on pause since the start of March, no matter which level. More than 2.2 million active players have been without football, whether that’s men or women, adults or children, all have been unable to train and unable to play games. More than 80,000 games per week have been called off. That has had grave consequences for everyone involved in football, both on and off the pitch. Everyone who loves this sport has been affected: players of course, but also referees, coaches, trainers, even groundsmen, and of course the fans.
Clubs from the Kreis- to the Bundesliga have come under pressure, and we can’t sugarcoat it - for many of our 25,000 clubs, it’s about survival and we’re doing everything we can, as the sport’s governing body in this country, to help them out.
One of the measures we have taken is we have made full payments to the regional associations on behalf of the clubs, which are usually spread over the year and amount to a total of €12 million. With this measure, the state associations can bridge liquidity gaps in order to keep amateur clubs afloat and maintain the structures in amateur football.
We will also need political support. Sport and football in particular do valuable work for society and the common good, be it through the youth community, as a driver of integration or one of the many other things that the sport does to connect people. This becomes abundantly clear in times of crisis like we’re in now, with many players offering to help out in their communities, giving up their time for shopping services and other things upon which we’re relying heavily during these difficult times.
Both football and sport as a whole know we have to help out, but we can’t be alone in this. And so we have to appeal to the government: sport will help out in society in order to assure a swift return to normality, but we need support if we’re going to get it done. In times like these, nobody should fail because of bureaucratic issues, such as which form the clubs have chosen to fill out. It is essential that the clubs receive administrative help to make getting through this crisis simple and smooth. We’ve already seen some wonderfully simple approaches which have helped out massively: The state of Schleswig-Holstein has announced that it will provide every club facing liquidation with financial support amounting to €15 per club member. In addition to the Corona emergency aid and the possibility of promotional loans, an emergency aid fund for sports amounting to €5 million was launched in Hamburg. We need something like this to happen across the whole of Germany.
Why is this help from the state so important? Can the DFB itself not be providing it? Simple answer: no, we can’t, for two reasons. The DFB is not allowed to subsidise any club’s loss of income through grants or loans. Secondly, the DFB doesn’t have the financial means to cover the costs for around 25,000 clubs. That being said, we are doing everything we can as a governing body to help: We’re strive to provide as much relief as possible for our clubs dring these times, to advise them and to be flexible on how we handle every club’s situation. That’s why the DFB has extensively adapted its rules of the game and youth regulations. That’s why some regional associations have adjusted, deferred or waived fees. And that’s why we’re offering seminars and consultations to clubs to provide them with the necessary information to help them through this crisis. The procedure for bankruptcy cases has been adjusted in order not to punish clubs in need through the COVID-19 pandemic through no fault of their own. In addition, the admissions procedure for the 3. Liga and FLYERALARM women's Bundesliga has been relaxed. All of this shows that we are doing everything we can to act appropriately and sensibly in the interests of our clubs and above all, to help them in every way we can. And we will continue to do so going forward.
We all want football to come back, of course. It could potentially do so if games are played without spectators, but this scenario will only be possible if the health authorities deem it appropriate. It goes without saying that health comes first and we don’t want to burden the health services unnecessarily - other groups in society have to take priority during these times.
We don’t like that scenario - we all know that football without fans isn’t true football. We know from our interactions with fan organisations just how much it’s hurting them not to be able to get behind their clubs at the moment. A restart to all leagues could really help to save a lot of clubs from liquidation, though. That goes for every club whether it be in the Bundesliga or 2. Bundesliga, but even more so for the 3. Liga and the women’s Bundesliga. We’re working on every possible scenario alongside the health authorities to see which is most viable for all parties.
We’re all hoping that fans can return to the stadiums as soon as possible. Until then, we want to work on the relationships between fans, teams and associations. We’ll be keeping in close contact with everyone to discuss all the issues surrounding football and find out where the fans stand on these issues, and to me that’s an extremely worthwhile thing to do. I’ve already had plenty of constructive conversations with fans and I hope that this will continue.
I’m extremely proud to see the way our country has reacted to this situation. How sporting competitions have taken a backseat and yet everyone in football is continuing to make an important contribution to social interaction with various great campaigns. This is a time for solidarity, helpfulness and creativity - something that directly involves us as a footballing family. These values play a central role in our sport. This can be seen in numerous campaigns across Germany. Many great initiatives have emerged in German football in the past weeks. They create added value that benefits our society and I would like to thank everyone who is out there demonstrating these values and is showing exactly what defines and connects us in football.
I can’t forget, of course, the great commitment of our national team, who provided emergency aid of €2.5 million. Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka have raised an additional sum of nearly €4 million through their own fundraising campaign, "We kick Corona.”
These, and many other initiatives, are invaluable indicators of how strong and influential our football community is. I would like to thank you on behalf of the DFB. I would also like to say on behalf of the players, clubs and fans as well, to all those who are currently tirelessly committed to the society and the health of their fellow human beings, to all those responsible for keeping this country going: You have all my respect, and many, many thanks.
These are difficult times, everything is new and unusual to everyone. In the past few years, we’ve really been looking forward to Easter when it’s got to this point in the season. Easter 2020 will be different. Easter as a family celebration - for many of us it won’t be possible to celebrate with our families this year. However, I still want to send a message of hope: we will get through this, and football will come back, I’m sure of it!
During these especially difficult times, I want to wish you all a very happy Easter!