As expected Germany’s Bundesliga attract new armchair fans around the world this weekend when it became the first of Europe’s major soccer leagues to resume after a two-month shutdown due to the coronavirus.
The Bundesliga returned on Saturday afternoon with a full fixture list, bringing an end to the two months we’ve been without major European football.
Highlights this weekend include league leaders Bayern away at Union Berlin on Sunday with Dortmund, four points behind the Bavarians, playing Schalke on Saturday.
Borussia Dortmund host Schalke in a hotly-anticipated Revierderby as the Bundesliga brings live European football back to fans’ screens for the first time since play was suspended.
Lucien Favre’s Dortmund will be hoping to do themselves justice without the vociferous backing of their famous home support, with a win taking them to within one point of the top ahead of Bayern Munich’s game on Sunday.
Schalke enjoyed an excellent start to the season but have fallen out of the title race, and will start the game 14 points behind Dortmund in sixth.
The attention might boost the Bundesliga‘s marketability in the longer term. Bayern, Dortmund and Schalke are the only three German clubs to feature in the top 20 in the annual Deloitte ranking of soccer clubs by their revenues.
In normal circumstances, the German game, dominated in recent seasons by Bayern Munich, lacks the marketing pull of England’s Premier League or Spain’s La Liga, which boasts the world’s two biggest clubs in terms of revenue – Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Yet even with a subdued atmosphere given the absence of passionate fans, with all games being played behind closed doors to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the Bundesliga can use the spotlight to show its worth to devotees missing live action around the globe.
“With the Bundesliga as the only league to be broadcast on TV, I expect we will have an audience of a billion,” Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told SportBild magazine on Wednesday.
The return of live action will also enliven the advertising industry, with the prospect of big audiences set to drive up rates for commercials during matches.
Misha Sher, vice president for sport and entertainment at MediaCom, a WPP agency that buys ad space for clients, described it as a “huge deal” at a time when people have so much time on their hands. “Football fans will tune in and watch top level football because they’ve been deprived of that for months,” he said.
“And it’s not like they have options. I expect there to be huge demand to be around that inventory,” he added.
Gambling companies also welcomed the resumption of top-level soccer in Europe, with British bookmaker William Hill describing it as encouraging in an update on its business on Friday.
One of the most powerful politicians in Germany has warned that the Bundesliga is danger of being called off following several highly publicised violations of the league’s medical policy ahead of Saturday’s restart of the season, which will come without spectators in the stadiums.
Reuters / Give Me Sport / ESPN / Goal.Com