In an interview, Borussia's managing director Stephan Schippers and sporting director Max Eberl spoke about the current situation at Borussia in connection with the coronavirus pandemic.
The coronavirus and the measures to contain it not only keep our whole country in suspense, but also football. On Monday of this week, the club assembly at the DFL in Frankfurt made it clear how serious the situation is for the Bundesliga. How serious is the situation for Borussia Mönchengladbach?
Max Eberl: First of all, I would like to emphasise that health is the most important thing at the moment; it’s the number one priority. I already said it at the press conference for the Köln game last week: football is a wonderful thing, the most beautiful thing in the world, but there are simply things that are more important. We are now in a situation where football takes a back seat because it is more important that we get through this pandemic as best we can.
Stephan, there have been two employees at Borussia who tested positive. How are they?
Stephan Schippers: That's right, we have two colleagues who tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Both are fine, one of them briefly had mild symptoms, but they subsided after two days. The other colleagues who were sent to self-isolation triggered by these cases are also doing well. In order to counter the spread of the virus, we sent a large number of our employees home last week, and they’ll be working from there for now.
What can Borussia fans do at the moment?
Stephan Schippers: We appeal to all fans that they take the current measures taken by the federal or state government seriously and to carry out their responsibility so that we can contain the virus and protect people from the disease. This is not the time for parties and fun and unfortunately not for football matches in stadiums with full stands. This is a time when our community and people's solidarity matter! Borussia is also affected by these measures. Our sports bar, the fan shop, the FohlenWelt, the FohlenCampus, the hotel - all these facilities are closed until further notice. The medical areas, medical practices and the Medical Park rehabilitation centre are still open. Taking these measures was the appropriate response to the current developments.
How is the team dealing with the situation?
Max Eberl: Of course, the players are also concerned for themselves and worried about the health of their families, their children, their partners, their parents. But they also know that we will provide them with very good medical care. It is of course difficult for the boys not to know exactly when and how things will proceed from here. Marco Rose and his coaching staff have to respond to this and we’ll make the best of the situation. If the season can be continued, we want to be as fit and as well prepared as we can, but we’re also wary of the situation.
On Monday, DFL Managing Director Christian Seifert made it clear how serious the consequences of the coronavirus could be for the league and the clubs. There are 56,000 employees across the Bundesliga. How serious is the situation for Borussia?
Stephan Schippers: We are experiencing the most difficult situation since 1999 in the Bundesliga and therefore also at Borussia Mönchengladbach. We have to say this openly: we expect loss of revenue due to game cancellations, lack of ticket sales, possible lost TV revenue and lack of sponsorship money.
How do you plan to deal with that?
Stephan Schippers: Our job is to compensate for this as much as possible. In our meeting on Monday evening we decided what the first measures will be. The goal is for Borussia Mönchengladbach to survive this corona crisis and to do that without having to give notice of termination to anyone. In order to achieve this we will all have to work hard together - we cannot currently rule out that this will also include measures such as those being taken by other affected companies throughout Germany, for example the use of part-time work. We are in the process of checking how feasible that would be.
How will things proceed in the league?
Stephan Schippers: In order to avoid a huge financial hit, the efforts of the league and all clubs are currently aimed at ending the current season in order to secure TV revenue and sponsorship money. This will only work if there is a general commitment and willingness to do so. The willingness to play in this situation even without fans, because it’s hardly realistic to hope that games with spectators will be happening in the next few weeks. We all agree: Bundesliga football without fans is not what we want, but for the next few weeks and months we have to realise that only a continuation of the Bundesliga games - without spectators - will allow many clubs to survive economically.
Max, you also spoke to the team about the situation on Tuesday and explained to the players what’s going on right now...
Max Eberl: Yes, but I didn't have to explain much. The players know what's going on. It’s their job, they have already informed themselves and thought about what they could do. The team has offered to forgo salary if it can help the club and its employees.
Is that an offer that Borussia will take up?
Max Eberl: Yes. I am very proud of the boys. It's a clear signal that we stand together for Borussia, in good times and in bad. They want to give something back to the club and therefore also to all the fans who support us. The coaching staff have followed suit, as have our directors and CEOs.
These are difficult times and they require special measures. This also means that you have to accept help. Borussia is currently receiving letters from many fans and sponsors, some have ideas and suggestions, others offer concrete help. How are you dealing with this outreach?
Stephan Schippers: We will try to open up opportunities for our partners to compensate for advertising opportunities that have been or may soon be lost. Maybe that way we can avoid having to refund sponsorship money. But there are also sponsors who have voluntarily promised to give their support in this situation.
Refund is a keyword for fans too. How does Borussia deal with fans who had tickets for the game against Köln and how will Borussia proceed from today if there are other games without fans?
Stephan Schippers: Basically, you have to differentiate between season tickets and matchday tickets. We will only be able to lay down rules for season tickets after the end of the season, when we actually know how many games have taken place without spectators. In general, everyone is entitled to a refund of the ticket price. So far, only the game against Köln has been affected. If you want to register your claim, you can now use the corresponding form on our homepage. But let me be quite frank: every euro we don't have to refund will help us. If you're happy to pass up on a refund, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts! If you can't or don't want to, we will transfer your money as soon as possible. At Borussia we will all deal with this situation together, and at some point we will be back again and we’ll have the opportunity to thank every Foal for their support, I’m sure of that.