Borussia and Dortmund a community approach to the Covid 19 crisis that inspires faith in a time of ...
By on Mar 24, 2020, 6:40am PDT
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Covid 19 crisis how a city and a football club have come together in mutual support in a time of crisis by Ben McFadyean, Founder and President Borussia Dortmund Fan Club London
Borussia Dortmund has presented their players with a potential model for a salary waiver to overcome the coronavirus crisis. The club's top brass Watzke, Cramer, Kehl, Favre and Zorc are taking the lead but it's not just the club who are leading initiatives to generate mutuality and support in a show of the solidarity that shows again just how unique this club is.
On Monday, training in Dortmund took place but only on an individual basis, the players working out according to individualised training plans set up by the club's athletic trainers and fitness coaches. Borussia Dortmund is hoping to be able to return to the training ground next week if Germany’s social-distancing rules which currently restrict groups to two people are curtailed to allow for vital team practice sessions.
Dortmund’s by now fabled connection between the club and city which is so loved amongst UK fans like the 300 members of our fan club which has been the official fan club of Borussia Dortmund in the UK capital since 2013 who visit the Südtribüne the famous 'Yellow Wall' has like all communities been tested by the concerns about employment as a result of the Corona health crisis and the impact especially on the most vulnerable including the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions.
At a time when people are worried about losing income and jobs, undoubtedly, the focus cannot, as it is amongst many football fans in the UK who have seen players salaries rise almost inexorably whilst many especially those in the public sector have seen pay freezes in recent years, fail to be on what sacrifices are going to being made by the football players in the crisis.
Last week, Borussia’s Managing Director Hans-Joachim Watzke, BVB's Head of Marketing Carsten Cramer and the head of professional football former club captain Sebastian Kehl agreed to give up one-third of their salaries to reduce the overheads of the football club.
They were joined by BVB's Sporting director Michael Zorc and coach Lucien Favre who have also agreed to the same 33 per-cent temporary cut in their income in the hope of setting a good example across the club at this critical time.
The focus now is on Borussia’s players who are currently in discussion with the club to find ways to limit the financial impact of the crisis caused by the suspension of games and find a further joint approach to cushioning the financial impact of the crisis on the club which although financially strong is hard hit like any other football club.
The basic salaries of the players amount to around €13m monthly, according to reports in Germany there seems to be a general acceptance in the squad towards a temporary salary reduction between 10 and 20 per cent for the time being until the DFL, the German equivalent of the Premier League, is in a position to reschedule the Bundesliga season
The situation could not be clearer; Borussia across the board are rising together to make sacrifices in hard times and the leadership are showing the way forward, the players will surely follow but what about the fans and how does this impact the community in Dortmund?
As a fan of the club for over 30 years and a fan club president for the last seven, I have known and been impressed, not least the almost bankruptcy in 2005, by the willingness for self-sacrifice for the benefit of the club we hold so dear, would anyone want to lose income especially at a time of great worry like a health pandemic like Covid 19?
From my own experience, this special bond in the Borussia Dortmund community is based on an almost unique in the professional culture of communication and responsiveness in the club initiatives like the club's annual Christmas party where the players pull the pints behind the bar to which all fan club organisers of Borussia's 860 fan clubs worldwide are invited and which I have attended many times or the end of season 5 a side football tournament, which our fan club has been taking part in annually since 2014, the Südtribünenmeisterschaft are the building blocks of what makes BVB such a community-based football, it's so much more than a commercial relationship between customer and business which is what football in the UK, but not just the UK also at some other German clubs, can feel like at times.
That culture generates a special bond which can sometimes be transferable and be a game-changer. In 2018, we the BVB fan club in London were able to come together with homelessness magazine The Big Issue to collaborate with Southampton FC to bring a model which was developed amongst fan clubs in Dortmund where the match-day programme became a magazine sold only by and benefitting exclusively street sellers at the match against Swansea. The project which was based on a similar project with a street magazine called Bodo in Dortmund was huge success, the match day programme sold out at the game within hours and the income enabled all of the sellers to raise sufficient funds to secure accommodation and two were even taken on to an employment training scheme at Southampton FC in the process.
This is the type of community initiative that is a win-win for community and club that arises out of a culture of cooperation like that in the Borussia Dortmund society from which I benefit as a fan club organiser and fan, being invited to attend the match sitting alongside the street sellers and Southampton directors in a directors box for the match an opportunity to make lives better is an experience I personally will never forget.
Under the hashtag #BorussiaVerbindet, this weekend a fundraising campaign was set-up by BVB to support Dortmund's restaurants and bars. An online app was set up with with the bars and restaurants and also small shops that in Dortmund that are geographically proximate to the stadium or on the adjoining streets. Businesses which have lost almost all their revenue as a result of match days being postponed.
The app is laid out in such a way that users can in a virtual way stop at the shops and make a purchase in the way of a donation. Club and a community that relies on it mutually supporting one another a heart-warming initiative not just for the business owners who could generate some badly-missing income but also strengthening the special bond that exists between Borussia and the city of Dortmund which any visitor to Dortmund cannot fail to have seen in the black and yellow displays that add so much colour to shop windows in and around the city.
More to the point the initiative was taken up in great numbers, just under €74,000 was raised in support for the 86 restaurants, pubs, bars and small shops taking part in the first 3 days of trading. Borussia Dortmund Managing Director Cramer in an email to all fan clubs encouraging others to support the initiative was thrilled by the success "We are thrilled and, to be honest, really touched by how many people took part in the campaign and supported their favourite restaurant with a few euros. This is solidarity in action, and this is an emotional bond that makes our Borussia Dortmund so strong, so valuable in these difficult times,".
As the BVB fan club in London, our members are never far from the Borussia spirit which we share on our Facebook group of 17,000 fans, inspired by the community initiatives and keen to show our support for Dortmund we had an opportunity to lend our support. Borussia Dortmund run 'Leuchte Auf' a charity foundation which essentially acts as the club's CSR (corporate social responsibilty) department supporting local causes like charities but also small football clubs and fan initiatives. The Leuchte Auf fundraising appeal for the Corona crisis which benefits a local research hospital, the WHO (world health organisation) and a range of local charities providing care to the elderly and disadvantaged was a cause we readily made a donation to. We also as a club in the hope that other fan clubs would be inspired and follow suit went further and made the refunds due to us from tickets for cancelled matches including the derby against Schalke and the Bayern Munich games available to Leuchte Aufs appeal
The newspapers in UK are full of stories of football clubs seeking answers to drastically reduced income as a result of this schocking Corona virus outbreak which is such a concern for us all. Borussia Dortmund's community-led approach is so often missing in today's world. Although some of the 300 London Fan Club members are in their first season following Borussia Dortmund, once fans have attended a match at the Signal Iduna Park stadium, affectionately known by its original name 'Westfalenstadion' by BVB fans, the unique community spirit and solidarity that comes with being a 'Borusse', as Dortmund fans are known, embraces even the most cynical football hearts and BVB becomes a life-long habit.
The decision as to how to support the cost-cutting drive in light of the Corona crisis is with the players and their representatives and the decision is expected in the next days, a decision which could influence many other football clubs across Germany and beyond, however that decision turns out, Borussia Dortmund's approach as a club to support the city and its businesses in the #BorussiaVerbindet and appeal for Covid 19 sufferers will certainly, and not just in the football world, demonstrate much of what makes this club special in world much in need of solidarity and community, it will also set the bar for social justice just that much higher.