THW Kiel wins the regular season title; SG Flensburg-Handewitt second place. 20 teams expected for 20/21 Premier League season
KIEL- After ice hockey and basketball is the 1999/20 season for the professional German Handball League (DHL) officially over. All 36 teams in the premier and second leagues voted unanimously to discontinue the season instead of playing in empty stadiums (Geisterspiele) through June, the month when the season would’ve ended. The decision to end the season early is the first ever in the history of the DHL and it comes in response to the Corona epidemic and the lack of measures needed to contain the spread of the virus. To add to the misery, all large-scale events including sports matches have been banned in Germany through 31 August.
The decision to end the season comes less than eight hours after the decision was announced to cancel the Oktoberfest in Munich by the Bavarian government and Munich’s city mayor (see here for article).
According to German public radio station NDR Info, the teams that started the 19/20 season will remain in their respective leagues for the coming season, however the top two teams will be promoted, thus having a total of 40 teams in two leagues when handball resumes play in the fall. In the elite league, the newcomers for the upcoming season will be HSC Coburg and TuSEM Essen. The last two teams in the league, Nordhorn-Lingen and Ludwigshafen will remain in the top league for the upcoming season. The plan is to have four teams demoted to the second league by the end of the upcoming season.
With the season being over, the zebras of THW Kiel have been crowned season champions, with second place finisher going to its archrival, SG Flensburg-Handewitt. Both teams will play in the Champions League this fall. SC Magdeburg, TSV Hanover-Burgdorf and Rhein-Neckar Lions will play in the Euro League. Due to the Corona Virus, it is uncertain when league play will continue on both the national and international levels. There is a possibility of starting the season later than usual. League play usually starts in September. At the same time, Geistespiele for at least part of the season may have to be introduced- a concept that is rejected due to the fact that a fair share of the revenue comes from the fans.
After the announcement to cancel the season, all eyes are now focusing on the German soccer league and its three tiers. There the debate over if and when to continue the season is fanning the flames both within the league but also with the local and national governments and health experts. This includes the continuation of the season through Geisterspiele versus cancelling the season. Already there is a sharp divide between those who favor the former and those for the latter. And the question of the financial status among all the teams in the three leagues is the fuel for the firey debate. With the DHL canceling the season, chances are likely that the fire will be extinguished through a concerted decision from the Bundesliga and the public officials that will satisfy the teams, fans and the cities that have the profi-teams.