Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR
Sports are slowly making a comeback around the world. Some baseball leagues have begun playing games, albeit without fans in the stands, NASCAR will start racing later this month with similar limitations, and now it appears that the German Bundesliga is on track to resume sometime in May.
The Bundesliga has been on hiatus for about two months, but now German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced she is loosening the containment measures related to coronavirus response. That’s good news for German soccer and for German soccer fans. As with other professional sports leagues, games will resume without fans in attendance. Many fans are very happy, while others may have some misgivings. Messaging around this issue tried to address both.
“(This) decision is good news for the Bundesliga and second division… It comes with great responsibility for the clubs and their employees to implement the medical and organizational requirements in a disciplined manner… Games without spectators are not ideal. In a crisis threatening the very existence of some clubs however, it is the only way to keep the leagues in their current form…”
The announcement that play could resume came on the heels of another announcement: that of three more positive tests for the virus, a statement that coincided with a livestream broadcast of some club members ignoring social distancing guidelines.
So, at best it’s a shaky environment in which to make such a momentous announcement. While the public desire for the resumption of sport is high, there are many who still harbor serious concerns. Any effort to appease one will have to take into consideration how to assuage the other.
Some other professional athletes had harsh words for the league and for officials who greenlit the games. Ronal Rauhe said the nation was making soccer more important than education and Jonannes Vetter called the decision “perverse.” Meanwhile, other athletes just asked that decisions be “fair,” arguing that all sports should be allowed or none should be allowed.
This kind of all or nothing approach has been routinely rejected by most decision-makers at every level of government across the world. They have chosen a more situational approach to these decisions, so the “all or nothing” perspective may not find a very receptive audience.
Narratives will need to consider all these perspectives as they continue to be released, no matter which side the messenger takes. Emotions and opinions will continue to be strong in relation to all of these questions for some time to come, and it will be interesting to see how the messaging around this issue continues to evolve over the coming weeks and months.