Munich: How the Corona crisis affects sport – Munich

The picture looks familiar, at least to anyone who is currently banished to their own four walls to practice sports. There is a chest of drawers on the left, a desk on the right, with just enough space on the floor in between for a blue mat. And on this lies Benjamin Weiderer now, gray trousers, mint green shirt and lifting his legs, slowly up and down, toes always pulled up. Then he looks at his screen: You have to pay attention to the lumbar spine, he explains, it has to be pressed to the floor, just not a hollow back.

Benjamin Weiderer is the athletics coach of the “Munich Roadrunners Club” (MRRC). In normal time, he always trains on Mondays with the runners’ performance groups in a school sports hall. But it is currently ruled out due to the corona virus. According to the club, intensive training is not recommended anyway, so as not to weaken the immune system. The athletes and their coaches would decide how they train in the MRRC. But in order for everyone to stay in shape, Weiderer has started demonstrating mobility and strength training online on his own: on Wednesdays and Fridays, he now broadcasts a one-hour training program live on Facebook.

At first, he was nervous about whether the technology would work, he says. He also wanted to buy a webcam, but they were sold out. Now the integrated camera in the computer has to do the job. Participants need neither equipment nor a running track, but only about two square meters of space. Above all, members of the performance groups would participate, Weiderer says. But the offer is basically open to everyone.

The Corona virus has put sports clubs in a difficult situation: gyms and training facilities have been closed, competitions have been postponed and there will be no training until further notice. Even after the recent easing, no one knows when it will be possible to continue. Meanwhile, some clubs, like Weiderer, go online.

Clubs like Alba Berlin have shown the way: Since mid-March, the basketball club has been producing “Alba’s daily sports lesson” for children and young people and publishes two videos on YouTube every working day. MTV München von 1879 now offers something similar in Munich: As of this Friday, the club’s coaches have already recorded and uploaded more than 50 videos, primarily in the categories of fitness, gymnastics and children’s sports. In the latter, there are, for example, movement games with the skipping rope, badminton with a balloon and fly swatters or balance exercises on a simulated balance bar made of a blanket. In addition, the fitness department has posted training schedules for the elderly on MTV’s website.

The association will not only ensure that its members and others keep moving and do not gain fat. “It’s also important for us to protect our coaches from short-term work,” said MTV CEO Veit Hesse. As long as they can not train with the members, they should, for example, develop concepts or record videos.

“If we can, we will not send any of our employees on short-term work,” says Pia Kraske, CEO of ESV Munich, which according to its own statement is the largest mass sports club in the city with approx. 8,000 members and 26 branches. Here, too, the coaches are busy recording sports videos for children and uploading them to YouTube. Others would now offer their course program online, Kraske says. The Taekwondo department, for example, trains four to five times a week via a video conferencing program. Team sports like hockey, on the other hand, would now train techniques that you can also train alone. And if you have time, take care of other things. “We do a lot of work and do right now,” Kraske says. One of the physical education teachers is painting walls, another is sanding something. “There are always things you want to change, but otherwise do not have time for.”

The clubs benefit from the fact that they do not have to waive the contingent for the time of the Corona closure. An association is not based on the principle of performance and consideration, says Kraske; rather, the association is a community of solidarity. “We’re not a gym.”

For many of them, on the other hand, it is actually about existence. They hope for the solidarity of their members – and they try to keep them with them despite the failure. Several Munich studios, for example, rely on New York’s online platform “Classpass,” on which online courses can be booked in livestreams. To support the studies in the Corona crisis, the platform operator waives its commission until the end of May, so the proceeds go exclusively to the studies. He also calls for donations and announces that each donation will be matched up to one million US dollars.

Other studios have produced online courses for themselves, such as the “Elements” studios, of which there are three in Munich and which belong to a subsidiary of the Swiss Migros cooperative. “Elements” wants to extend the membership of its customers free of charge for the lost time after the end of the closure. According to “Elements”, this shift makes economic sense for the studio. For then the loss of contributions would not come together, but be spread over several months. “Fitness First”, one of the world’s largest operators of gyms, also offers a free extension, also for its four studios in Munich.

Instead, customers can also choose training coupons for friends, for example. Just over 40 percent of members would choose to extend their membership for free, says Martin Seibold, the German head of “Fitness First”. Another fifth take training coupons while others upgrade their membership. Seibold talks about a sales loss due to Corona in the tens of thousands of millions – with running costs. Some employees are on short-term work. “Fitness First” supports not only them but also the freelance fitness trainers.

But sports clubs also face financial challenges. The Bavarian State Sports Association BLSV asked its member clubs in mid-March to report what losses they expect. By the end of March, about 1,000 clubs had participated, nearly one-tenth of the members; the reports amounted to 200 million euros. The association says organized sport in Bavaria faces the “biggest challenge in its history”.

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Veit Hesse from MTV also talks about losses: Unlike professional sports clubs, his mass sports club is not dependent on TV fees and spectators. But rental income would be lost. And everyone who has booked a climbing course with MTV, which has now been canceled, will get their fee back. During normal times, the club also registers about 150 new registrations per month.

These are also missing now. And one has to see what happens if the sports facilities have to stay closed for a longer period of time. In November, members would have the opportunity to terminate their membership for the first time. “I hope sports clubs do not become the last to be allowed to reopen,” says Hesse. “Of course it’s about leisure for us. But sport is necessary for socializing.”

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