“We recognised the sign of the times” – answers from quarantine
Board member Fredi Bobic believes steps the club recently took against the spread of coronavirus have been justified, while he also explains the new procedures and his preference for taking well thought-out decisions.
Fredi Bobic on:
…being quarantined: I’m here in Frankfurt and my family are also in quarantine. We’re spread all over the place. One lives in Stuttgart, my eldest daughter. My wife and my youngest are in Berlin. I’m here, obviously, because I’m also in quarantine. After the first case here at the club it’s obvious that if you’ve been in contact with the player that you then go into quarantine yourself, abide by the rules and also set an example to the team by seeing it through to the end. I think that’s just the way it has to be. We’re in a position of responsibility now and we have to accept this responsibility. That’s why I’m trying to do everything at my home office here in Frankfurt. It’s new to me, too. I’m someone who travels a lot and is always on the go, so it really is an unusual feeling. You tend to look forward to peace and quiet, but we could have done without this.
…his family: Fear maybe isn’t the right term, it’s more a feeling of uncertainty. First and foremost, your family is the most important thing. I think that goes for everyone and that’s really the way it should be. It’s important for me to know that they’re fine, that they can keep up their daily routine and, most importantly of all, that they’re healthy. That’s most important. My parents are high-risk patients because they’re in their mid-70s. It’s just a nice feeling to hear that everyoneis OK. That’s always the most important thing, your health.
…the two players to have tested positive: The two players are doing well, under the circumstances. We’ve reached a stage where we’ll hopefully have the rest of the test results soon. The common symptoms are there, but it’s not as if it’s a critical situation. That’s what the doctors have assured me and both are already in good spirits again. If you’ve been in touch with them, it gives you a positive feeling. They’ll hopefully make a full recovery and I don’t think they’ll end up being the only ones. Unfortunately, it’s likely to affect many others, probably at other clubs too.
…providing supplies for the team: It’s not easy at all for the lads to go shopping right now. When they’re outside, asked for lots of selfies and the panic-buyers are out and about, I can’t imagine them working their way through a supermarket. That’s why we sorted out our supplies in the first week. At the moment their food is being delivered to them. Our fantastic chef Stefan, who cooks for us all week at the training ground, has their food delivered. The lads can always order that. We have our own app that includes the whole team. Everyone can order from it. They know what’s available and the lads are making the most of it, because it’s also very important that they eat properly. Hopefully normal life will resume once this crisis is over.
…tracking the chain of infection: It wasn’t really that difficult. We could track the chain of infection quite a way back, but where did it start and where did they really become infected? Was it the game against Basel? Was it a few days before? We know it usually takes time for a virus like that to really affect the body. There were a few days in between where they could have been infected earlier. It’s really not that easy at all, when you think about where you’ve been in the last 48 hours or even five days, all the people you’ve been with, who you’ve been in contact with, even without you realising it. It’s not that easy at all. But the most important thing is that it’s been detected and that we’re now taking the right steps. And, especially after being in such a closed environment after the league was suspended and we were all together, we knew who had been with each other. We’ve been paying much closer attention to who’s been spending time with one another in the last few days. So that made things easier. And that’s why it’s clear when a player is infected and the whole squad might have seen him in the days leading up to it, that the whole squad goes into quarantine.
…the players’ fitness regimes: There are videos with training exercises for the team. They are being constantly updated with new drills. They obviously focus mainly on strengthening the core. It’s amazing what you can do at home. They’ve had mats delivered, they’ve been given bikes, which they’re already familiar with. They allow them to let off steam and follow their programme. They’re all doing so very diligently. These days you also have watches which allow you to check everything. But I have to say, even in the first week - I mean last week, when training was a little more normal and when they could work at the training ground at our stadium, everything was very disciplined, very good. The lads are keen on keeping their bodies fit and to keep on exercising.
…guidelines for the players: You can’t make anyone do anything. Everyone has their rights. But there are a lot of recommendations out there. We’re following the instructions of the doctors and virologists. I think common sense dictates that we should go ahead and put them into practice. Individually, that hasn’t been a problem for us at all so far. All of us here near Frankfurt or in Frankfurt, where the lads live, are now at home and in quarantine. One thing’s also clear: It’s natural for one or two to have considered flying home or driving home. That’s understandable from a human perspective. It’s not easy for me either. I would also like to see my family from time to time. Everyone obviously has that urge to go back to where they come from in this situation. But that’s exactly what you shouldn’t do. It takes a lot of discipline and the lads are very disciplined. They’re all here and that’s why we’re not worrying too much. But that urge to maybe fly or drive home to the family is bound to surface every now and again.
…contacting players during quarantine: Last week, when we were seeing each other frequently, staying in touch was a lot easier. Now it’s more difficult and often has to be via telephone. That goes for Adi Hütter, Bruno Hübner and myself. We obviously telephone the players as well to find out how they’re doing. They can always get in touch. The same goes for the staff. That’s also important. If anyone has a problem,we try to find a way to solve it somehow. We’ve solved a lot of things very well. We’re well stocked, the players can train. Everything’s very well organised. We’re keeping in touch with the lads and we know all about smartphones - as everyone does. We’re obviously in touch with each other and you can see that on social media, where you can keep in contact without becoming infected. They’ve been posting a lot.
…the broader plan for the team: It’s very uncertain right now how things will continue. It’s still possible that play will resume on 2 or 3 April, but we can assume that the decision will be to extend the suspension period. We’ll obviously keep training and hope that everything will settle down a bit - it’s all still very raw - and that the number of new cases starts to fall rather than continuing to rise. And that the number of deaths can be reduced too. Then, at some point, it might be possible for us to return to the training ground and maybe train again in smaller groups. To be honest, though, none of us can see the future. These developments are so quick and so sudden that we sometimes can’t take it all in and need to react to the situation. That’s up to the coaching staff and members of the board. We discuss things with one another, think about what is right, how we can keep the team running at the end of the day, and also how we can support them psychologically. That’s one thing that often gets forgotten about.
…the situation for head coach Adi Hütter: It’s obviously not that easy for the coach either. Adi is human too. Adi is obviously affected a little by this whole situation, that’s completely normal. He’s a father and is also on his own here in Frankfurt. It’s not easy for him either, which is totally understandable from a human perspective. But he’s going about it very professionally, very disciplined. It’s important for us, at management level, to be very disciplined and to set an example, to the players as well. It’s important that we recognised the sign of the times and that we need to do a lot of things differently, because that’s what’s necessary.
…the topic of wage cuts: I think the subject of wage cuts is a very interesting one. Finding out what, how, where and who’s involved and the kind of funds being raised. You can all rest assured that everyone will make their contribution. That goes for Eintracht Frankfurt and a lot of other clubs. First of all, though, we need to focus on the club. On our own club. That’s most important. We’re in the process of trying to find out everything - what happens until 30 June? What happens after 1 July? Can we still finish the season? Can’t we finish the season, etc.? We need to wait and see how damaged the car is - if you compare the whole thing to a car. The car has been in an accident, but is the damage minimal, medium or is it a total write-off? Only then do you know how big the hole is. We will call it as it is and deal with it openly. The players have already been giving off positive signals, because everyone knows that times will change completely. And the most important thing is that Eintracht Frankfurt survives and that clubs survive in general. Because so many jobs depend on it and we’ll obviously do all we can to save those jobs. Everyone will play their part, you can all be certain of that. I’m not a fan of knee-jerk reactions, I think people know that. We won’t act until the damage is completely clear. We’re acting with sound judgement, particularly on the board, and are primarily trying to analyse it all, play out all worst-case scenarios before deciding what’s best for Eintracht Frankfurt, and everyone will play their part in doing that.
…the season potentially being cancelled: Cancelling the season certainly wouldn’t be a positive thing. For Eintracht the damage would be very, very high, particularly from a financial point of view. It would be a huge shame if the season couldn’t be completed at all. We’ll do everything in our power to keep playing football. And it’s not only about money, but as I’ve already said, also about jobs. Jobs in the football industry and at Eintracht, but so many others are directly and indirectly involved in the Bundesliga, and make a living out of it. It’s a huge industry – it’s important to be aware of that. That’s why we also want to play our part in allowing the public to talk about something other than just the coronavirus - about sport as well. That, after all, is what sport is all about. I always used to say it’s like with the gladiators - bread and circuses. But it obviously needs to be safe and mustn’t damage anyone’s health. Ultimately, that’s why we’re waiting for whatever the virologists and doctors tell us. I think that’s most important. We should listen to them. But one thing’s clear: if the season is cancelled completely, it will hit an awful lot of people very hard. But we know it’s like that in ordinary walks of life, too. With a lot of other businesses, especially small and medium-sized businesses. We all have the same concerns. I think football is an important tool to entertain the public again - as is sport as a whole, in my opinion. Athletes always want to be on the pitch. Whatever the situation, it’s about sharing emotions with the people, the fans. That’s why I hope it doesn’t get to that. I hope we’ll manage somehow in the coming weeks. The plans have been drawn up and a decision will be made on Tuesday or Wednesday about what the schedule might look like. I think we can manage it. We can do it together and then we’ll see what the future holds. It’s very uncertain and we’ll all have to react very quickly according to the situation, depending on when the season resumes or if it resumes at all. If not, it’ll be very interesting to see how we - and indeed the league as a whole - manage to save the clubs.
…contract negotiations: At the moment, I think it might still be possible to finish the season in July. But our aim has to be to finish it by the end of June, because 30 June is when contracts expire and a point in time where the season comes to an end and contracts run out. We could also have a situation where it takes longer than that. That’s not really in our hands, though. If it does we might have to look at more flexible measures, like players whose contracts expire at the end of June staying at the club or still playing for the club. It’s not only up to the clubs but also the league, and European football as a whole. UEFA and FIFA too, because it would render the whole system unviable. We held a lot of talks early on, including with players whose contracts are running out. For the time being, of course, we’re in a “hold status”. We need to play out all the different scenarios and see what it means for us from a financial point of view, for Eintracht Frankfurt. We also need to think about what to do. New investments will obviously be put on hold for now. A lot of things we’d planned need to be postponed for the time being. Postponed for a long time. The damage will affect us greatly in the coming months, maybe even the whole year. That’s why we need to act very conscientiously and calmly, nobody knows what the summer transfer window might look like. That is also a situation that will place a huge strain on all of us and one we all have to get through. I’m happy that a lot of contracts we finalised last year were long-term deals. That’s why we’re in a decent position for the time being. One thing’s clear, though: it’s going to be a very interesting and exciting summer - if we start playing football again. If we don’t get to play again, then there’s no point talking about a summer transfer window.
…a possible collapse of the transfer system: Would the transfer market collapse? Those are all legitimate questions, but they’re also topics I’m unable to answer at the moment. A lot of things can happen. A lot of bad things still need to happen for the summer transfer window not to take place. At the moment, though, we’re remaining positive and hopeful that we’ll end up back on the pitch and the summer transfer window more or less goes ahead as normal. I mean that in a positive sense. In a different format is maybe a better way of putting it. That’s why we should see what happens first before we start imagining all kinds of horror scenarios.
…communicating with fellow board members: I’m obviously in daily contact with Oliver Frankenbach and Axel Hellmann, my colleagues on the board. We hold telephone conferences and also remain in constant discussions with the German Football League, via both video and telephone conferences. We’re very much involved. We’re obviously trying to keep all our partners and everyone in the sporting department happy and to keep looking forward with optimism. Not with an incomplete picture, but with a clear view of the situation and accepting: “OK, this is how it is. We’ll try and make the best of it.” I think that’s one of sport and football’s strong points, to adapt to its surroundings. That’s just the way it is now and we’re discussing everything that concerns Eintracht and trying to keep this club alive, keep it flourishing and to lead it out of this crisis from a financial perspective.