COVID-19: practical guidance for those affected by cancelled sports events in Germany

Published 07 April 2020 By: Dr. Philipp Wehler , Victoria Thusing

Stadium Germany

Like virtually all football leagues worldwide, the German Bundesliga (DFL) has suspended the ongoing season[1] until at least the end of April and is contemplating, together with the German Football Association (DFB), options including ending the season early or conducting “ghost games” without spectators present.  With EURO 2020 postponed until 2021, and if the situation with Coronavirus permits, the schedule would now in theory allow for the remaining league games to be played in late-spring and summer. The German Ice Hockey League has gone a step further and has already announced that no championship title will be played this year (the playoffs have been cancelled entirely) and the situation is much the same in other German and international sports leagues.

The crisis has left parties on the backfoot, questioning how to deal with the situation.  Football clubs are confronted with the legal and economic consequences of cancelled events, where missing even a single home game can have a devastating impact.  This is especially true for smaller clubs, and in the lower divisions where a greater proportion of total revenue comes from ticket sales.  Many clubs now fear for their very existence; according to a self-assessment form, 13 of 36 Bundesliga clubs are reportedly facing solvency problems[2], including 4 in the first division. To try to mitigate this, the representatives of the German Football League have taken number of measures, including softening the consequences of insolvency.

In light this nightmare scenario, this article addresses number of legal questions about sports events that have been raised to the author in Germany.  It also gives a few practical tips on what the relevant parties can or should being doing in these circumstances.  Specifically, it looks at:    

  • What rights do spectators and season ticket holders have if their event is cancelled (or games are played behind closed doors)?
  • What happens if the event is postponed to a new date?
  • What impact do cancellations have on sponsorship agreements?
  • What is the relationship between the organizer of an event and other service providers?

 

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Author

Dr. Philipp Wehler

Dr. Philipp Wehler

Partner, Hoffmann Liebs
 
Dr. Philipp Wehler is an attorney and partner at the German law firm Hoffmann Liebs, where he co-heads the sports law team comprising 10+ attorneys and providing full service advice in the field of sports. Among his clients are professional football players (including two current Champions league winners, a captain of a leading German football club, professional German football clubs, a firm of market-leading football agents and a leading German retail company). His practice focuses on strategic advice regarding marketing and image rights exploitation concepts (including tax aspects). He advises and represents individuals and enterprises both in court and out-of-court, in particular with regard to defending and enforcing trademark and other intellectual property rights.
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Victoria Thüsing

Victoria Thusing

Victoria Thüsing is a legal clerk at Hoffmann Liebs.

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