‘Playing without fans is a disaster’: Borussia Dortmund’s Sebastian Kehl on football during coronavirus

Returning to competitive league football without fans has been a tough, but necessary, compromise for all European leagues. For clubs like Borussia Dortmund, which rely as heavily on the money from gate receipts as the noise from over 81,000 partisan fans screaming themselves hoarse during each home game, this new normal has been nothing short of disastrous.

“Playing without fans, it was a disaster. Playing in Dortmund, at that stadium, without any fans, it’s no fun,” said Sebastian Kehl, who is Dortmund’s head of licensed players department. “It’s not good for the fans or the players. But it was the only way we could play, so we had to take it.”

Kehl was a part of the council along with the German football league (DFL) which worked on the plan that was convincing enough for the politicians to give the go-ahead to Bundesliga to restart earlier this year. This plan had to be satisfactory enough to convince three German ministries: the Health Ministry, the Ministry of Work and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Now as another season is on the horizon, Kehl and Dortmund officials will have to convince local politicians to allow some fans inside the stadium, albeit with some restrictions.

At present, while the clubs in Germany’s top tier have agreed to a plan to allow fans back into the stands, the final decision has been left on each state’s local government.

“We’re still working on plans to allow fans back. How many will eventually be allowed, we’ll have to figure that out. It’s not clear. That decision will be made at the end of August or beginning of September latest. The politicians will have to make that decision,” said Kehl, who has taken a management role with the Bundesliga club only a few years ago after having had a storied playing career with Dortmund.

“Hopefully, we can bring in some fans when the season restarts. It was not easy financially. If we don’t have any spectators, we are losing around 4 million euros every game. Big clubs have financial problems due to that and it’s hard to plan. You can see it on the transfer market. It’s already closed, there are no big deals. You can see financial losses in every league,” added Kehl during a press conference with journalists from Asia as part of the German club’s virtual Asia tour.

Talking about safety precautions the club is undergoing, Kehl said that the players and the staff were currently being tested twice a week.

“We travel in two buses for games. We had to have different (more than one) dressing room. Players are not allowed to sit close to each other when they eat dinner or lunch. So these small things we have to take care of. It’s a strange situation,” he said.

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