The sports world cast its eye on Germany this weekend, as the Bundesliga was the first major sports league to return to play after being suspended at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As opposed to other European football associations (e.g. France, Belgium and the Netherlands), which have cancelled the 2019/20 season, the DFL, the governing body of Germany‘s first two divisions, has been adamant that not finishing the season would likely result in bankruptcy for several clubs and put tens of thousands of jobs at risk.
To make the restart possible, the DFL had come up with an extensive concept that includes a rigorous testing regime and strict hygiene/distancing rules among other measures, which ultimately convinced the German government to greenlight the controversial plan.
While fiercely debated before Saturday's kick-off, the first matchday after the involuntary spring break was widely considered a success as fans refrained from meeting up in front of stadiums and Sky, the official broadcaster of the Bundesliga, saw the highest viewership in its history on Saturday afternoon. The record audience of 3.68 million (vs. an average of 1.5 million for the entire season) was certainly helped by Sky's decision to make its conference, a simultaneous live broadcast of all five afternoon matches, available to non-subscribers, but also indicates a large appetite for live sports among the German public.
Officials from other countries will certainly keep an eye on how things are going in Germany over the next few weeks, as the Bundesliga is now considered an example to follow for other major sports leagues, including the NBA, NFL and the English Premier League.