After professional football, the basketball Bundesliga also starts from the Corona break. With ten teams, the champions will be selected with ghost games in Munich from Saturday. At the start of the new season, however, the league leaders are already hoping for games in front of spectators.
Munich (dpa) - The basketball Bundesliga is starting its quarantine tournament with a unique concept.
Ten teams, no spectators, players and supervisors isolated from the outside world - the league games' management games by managing director Stefan Holz go beyond the continuation of the season in Munich. A conversation about financial hardships in Corona times, when there should be spectators watching basketball again and the handing over of the master trophy.
The BBL starts its master tournament on Saturday. How confident are you that you can choose a master on June 28th as planned?
Stefan Holz: We are well prepared, we chose the right host with FC Bayern. Politicians have certified our safety and hygiene concept that it is convincing. In this respect, we are well prepared. However, many things can still happen, the devil is in the details. But everything is on track. I think we will be ready on Saturday. There is anticipation everywhere, with the teams, with the players. It's finally about playing basketball again.
How important is this tournament for the league and the clubs?
Holz: It is very important that we continue to bring BBL GmbH and the clubs over the summer. It would have been a mistake for us to end the season prematurely. There is more to the BBL than the professional teams: youth programs, school corporations, the branches. If we hadn't continued playing, it would have been difficult to keep all these things going over the summer. We hope that the development of the BBL will not be broken over the past ten years.
What effect do you expect from this tournament?
Wood: Of course it's also about getting attention. This proves itself in advance. When it comes to sport again, it can be a chance to show how great basketball is, how cool the BBL is.
Doesn't the title have a different sporting value than in normal seasons?
Holz: I definitely don't see an asterisk in the ranking that relativizes the German championship 2020. The clubs step on the gas, oblige players, a real sporting competition has arisen again. The timing of playing every two days makes the season continuation something special. It's a tournament, and at a World Cup nobody asks if it's worth less than a Bundesliga season just because it's shorter. It just has a different charm.
You will not be in contact with the players yourself in the active zone. That means you can't hand over the trophy at all?
Holz (laughs): To be honest, we haven't really looked at that yet. But that's one of our least important issues. I always tell my people: Let's cross this bridge when we get there.
You recently said that the concept for this tournament without spectators can also be a "blueprint" for the coming season. What are the plans for next season at the moment?
Wood: I see it a little differently now. If we say that it is a "blueprint", we assume that we will play without spectators in the coming season. In the meantime, I am saying that it should not be the solution to play without spectators for a longer period of time. But if it has to be that way, we would certainly have gained enormous experience. But that would always be an emergency plan. The goal must be to play with spectators again or at least with limited spectator capacity as soon as possible, i.e. at the beginning of the coming season. I hope that we will then no longer need the concept.
How far are the plans for this?
Holz: Waiting for us to play with spectators again without restrictions is not a strategy. The next step will be - Key point concept 2.0 - to think further about our concept and to ask under what conditions and with which measures it can be justifiable to play in front of a part of the audience again.
How important is this for the survivability of basketball clubs?
Wood: This has two aspects: First, the commercial. Of the direct revenue from all clubs, ticketing accounts for around 20 percent. In total, however, it is significantly more because sponsor packages include tickets, there are VIP packages and the range in the hall is important for local sponsors. Secondly, live sports simply have to take place in front of spectators. The atmosphere in the hall is an essential part of the product, especially for basketball.
Do you expect all 19 clubs that have the sporting qualifications for the coming season to survive the summer?
Wood: The currently 17 clubs are all in safe haven for this season until June 30th. If no misfortune happens, I won't see a club that can't do it. The topic will be the coming season - of course all clubs could play BBL, but the question is with what budget. We have to answer that in the next few weeks.
Could the planned minimum budget of three million euros change as a license requirement?
Wood: We haven't decided that yet. The clubs were asked to calculate some scenarios for the coming season by May 31. The BBL expert committee with independent auditors is now looking at this and is giving us a recommendation by next week. Then we may have to suspend the minimum budget of three million.
DOSB boss Alfons Hörmann calls for a national emergency fund for sports, including professional clubs. How big is the need in basketball?
Holz: We have been reluctant to make demands in the past weeks and months because we know that other sectors are systemically important and are in line in front of us. But now the time has come for us to say: We are there too, professional sport has an important function as an economic factor, a means of life and an emotional component for millions of people. If it is necessary to play for a long time without spectators, we will not survive. In this respect, if this order existed, we would need financial help.
How high should this be?
Holz: We asked the clubs to calculate a worst-worst case - a season 2020/21 completely without spectators. Then we could put that in more detail. There it comes down to the crunch: If BBL GmbH and the league have a total turnover of 140 to 145 million euros, you can work out what amounts are involved.
What did this exceptional situation do to you personally?
Wood: This is actually the least important question. It had the effect that I have probably worked as much as I have in management consulting since I was young. I'm sure I'm ready for a vacation sometime in the summer. On the other hand: I have not spent as much time in my home office as I have in years, which was nice. But if we successfully complete the tournament, everyone involved will have a great success that they will never forget in their professional lives.
Medially, you were referred to as "Seifert des Basketball". Can you do anything with the comparison with Christian Seifert, head of the German Football League?
Wood: No. I've known Mr. Seifert for a relatively long time, I've never made any secret of the fact that I really appreciate him. The DFL is doing a fantastic job, it has been grooming the trail for sports worldwide these days. But with the DFL he is a very different number than the BBL, I don't want to call that in the same breath.
PERSONAL: Stefan Holz has been Managing Director of the Basketball Bundesliga since September 2015. Previously, the economist worked as an independent entrepreneur for media houses and sports rights holders and was the managing director of the Dolce Media Group, among other things for the marketing of "Wetten dass ...?" responsible.
Information about the tournament on the BBL homepage