With the first and second men’s Bundesliga divisions having recommenced last weekend, German football is now turning its attention to restarting play in the women’s top-flight.
The DFB (German FA) announced that the Women’s Bundesliga and the Women’s DFB-Pokal (German Cup) will restart from May 29; so, if it actually restart, they will set a perfect example to the rest of Europe, and especially to England, who still wondering if the WSL should end normally or be cancelled entirely.
Recently, Siegfried Dietrich, chairman of the DFB Leagues’ Committee, thanked the men’s teams who participate in UEFA’s lucrative Champions League competition for solidarity payments which contributed greatly to the restarting of the Women’s Bundesliga.
“Our renewed thanks go to the DFL and their Champions League participants Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Bayer 04 Leverkusen, who, with their solidarity fund, laid the groundwork for the Women’s Bundesliga to return,” said Dietrich.
“I’m happy for our clubs that we can now return to football with our Women’s Bundesliga, following the example of the men’s Bundesliga. The restart is a historic moment as we are the first professional women’s league in Europe to return to playing, with the greatest possible safety precautions for players and staff,” he concluded.
On the other side, other European leagues such as France, Belgium and the Netherlands, have seen both men’s and women’s seasons brought to an early close. Germany is leading the way when it comes to a more equal restart of football, but in some countries where everything is being done to resume the men’s top division, the women’s equivalent is not being treated in such fair manner.
The truth is that a number of problems had already been highlighted in the women’s game this season, even before the coronavirus pandemic affected the sport. The most notorious example is in Spain, where players went on strike last November, looking to secure fairer pay for part-time players and a minimum salary.
As well, England’s Women’s Super League which, unlike the Spanish league, is fully professional, the season had already been affected by storm Ciara in February. This showed the amateur conditions and subpar facilities in which top-level professional women’s players are still working despite recent progress.
And as it has been mentioned at the start, the men’s top-flight leagues look set to resume in both countries in June, while the women’s equivalent could come to an end due to a lack of support. It’s sad to say, but it seems women’s football in these places is just as mirage to look good, diverse, and equal (which are not).
A recent statement from fan groups in Germany called for solidarity across the country’s leagues. It insisted that any solution to current problems should not leave a divide between clubs at the top and the bottom, and should not result in a scenario where there are winners and losers. Something you wouldn’t see in England for a long time.
“The continuation of the season is a strong signal for women’s football and equal treatment for all professional sportspeople,” DFB vice-president Hannelore Ratzeburg said.
DFB president Fritz Keller added: “I’m happy that the majority of clubs in the Women’s Bundesliga have agreed to resume the current season. This type of togetherness is exactly what we need in a crisis. The return of the Women’s Bundesliga is one step towards a return to normality, both for football and society as a whole.
“The Women’s Bundesliga has therefore taken a leading role in international women’s football.”
As it stands, women’s teams in England don’t believe they have the funding required to resume the season safely and, unlike in Germany, it seems there will be no solidarity shown by those teams that receive millions in TV money and Champions League revenue.
“I strongly welcome the decision of the DFL executive committee to distribute the solidarity fund,” FC Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said of the initiative, which saw a total of €7.5 million (£6.7M) go to clubs in the Women’s Bundesliga.
Back in England, an article on the Lewes FC website stated their belief that women’s football could resume if the leagues received a total of £3M in support.
“£3M is a drop in the vast ocean of football finance and government Covid-19 support,” they said, and the club believe this “would cover all necessary Covid-19 testing and protocols, and reimburse clubs for their own additional costs of staging the matches.”
The £3M figure is similar to the amount contributed to the women’s game by the German clubs, but at the moment it doesn’t appear to be forthcoming from an English Premier League which markets itself as the best in the world. Maybe it’s the time to make good use of their money and help the women’s game during this crisis if we all want to move forward to equality, off the pitch as well as on it.