A special Coronavirus workgroup has long been in place at Hertha BSC, headed by Thomas Herrich, board member and event manager for home games. During that time, the Blue-Whites have been in regular contact with authorities, such as the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf health department that the club falls under. Employees have, for example, been kept informed of hygiene guidelines and kept abreast of the ongoing situation via email, before being told to work from home last week. Since Tuesday, the first team has been in a two-week period of self-isolation after a player tested positive for Covid-19.
On Thursday, Hertha BSC staff were updated on the latest developments at the club by the board via video conference. herthabsc.de had the chance to speak to the two managing directors afterwards.
herthabsc.de: Hello Michael, hello Ingo. Can you describe the current situation at Hertha BSC?
Michael Preetz: Perhaps I should say something first: This crisis is new for everyone in the country. We should all be well aware how serious it is by now without resorting to panic. On behalf of Hertha BSC, we would like to encourage everyone to follow the regulations in place, even if they turn life as we know it on its head somewhat. Health is the most important thing! However, we also have a responsibility to our staff, members and fans, and we still aim to fulfil that in this difficult time.
Ingo Schiller: I can only echo Michael’s words. That’s why we in the board have held regular and intensive talks about the current Coronavirus crisis and will continue to do so. We have informed all of the staff about the situation at the club. We will keep business running at Hertha BSC, however, the first step had to be to enact annual leave up to and including 3rd April 2020. We have also ordered that any travel, meetings, investments or expenses be stopped. Even though we’re not currently in a situation where we have to announce redundancies, we are considering some options such as reduced working hours. Every department has been called upon to outline saving opportunities.
herthabsc.de: How necessary are these measures?
Schiller: Very. However, I would like to point out that Hertha BSC’s situation in terms of potential liquidation is much better than many other clubs thanks to Tennor’s new partnership in the summer.
"“Our situation in terms of potential liquidation is much better than many other clubs thanks to Tennor’s new partnership”"
herthabsc.de: Have there already been talks with the first-team players in terms of them being willing to forgo some of their wages to show solidarity with those within and outside of the club?
Preetz: The fact that the players are all in self-isolation at the moment doesn’t make it easy to hold those talks, but it’s clear that we’re already discussing that option internally. Everyone at Hertha BSC will certainly play their part so that we as a club and community can get through this crisis together. If we reach an arrangement, we will gladly communicate it. But I think that it’s very clear to everyone by now that football isn’t just the beautiful game, but also an industry that 60,000 jobs depend on.
herthabsc.de: The players are in self-isolation at the moment. What does that entail?
Preetz: The players have been provided with spinning bikes and heart-rate monitors and have been given individual training plans from our strength and condition coach. There are also some stabilisation exercises for them, but of course we’re trying to make sure they maintain their fitness first and foremost.
herthabsc.de: How does the more long-term plan with the players look?
Preetz: The current plan is for the players to join up for team training again after the two-week self-isolation period, which as things stand would be on 31st March. The training sessions would then continue behind closed doors, but like I said, that’s just based on the current situation. We can’t say for sure how things will develop until then.
"“I believe that once we have overcome this crisis together, a lot of people in our society will have a new zest for life”"
herthabsc.de: What scenarios could happen with regards to the Bundesliga?
Preetz: The next assembly was arranged for the end of March during Monday’s DFL meeting. UEFA’s decision to push the Euros back to 2021 gives the league some room to play with. The goals is to complete the season by 30th June 2020, but we first have to monitor the number of Coronavirus cases and then we can discuss the next steps at the end of March about when we can resume and whether or not there will be fans at games.
herthabsc.de: What would a resumption of the season without fans mean for Hertha BSC?
Schiller: There are still nine more games, four of which are at home. There are two aspects: TV money for the nine matches overall and the matchday takings from tickets and hospitality. The TV money alone for these nine games would come to about €18 million for Hertha BSC. Having no fans or hospitality would of course result in savings in terms of the stadium rent, but it’s clear that there would still be an overall loss in that case.
herthabsc.de: Finally, do you believe that there will be any kind of normality again?
Preetz: I’m absolutely convinced that there will, but I couldn’t say when exactly everything will feel like it’s gone back to normal. Still, I believe that once we have overcome this crisis together, a lot of people in our society will have a new zest for life.
Schiller: I fully believe that too. People will be overjoyed to go back outside and live their lives together again with a new found strength.