Frankfurt am Main (AFP) – The German government and state leaders are set Wednesday to give the Bundesliga the green light to restart behind closed doors in May after weeks of shutdown imposed to control the spread of the coronavirus, according to a draft government agreement seen by AFP.
Politicians believe resuming matches in the first and second divisions to “limit the economic damage” for the 36 clubs is “acceptable”, the document showed.
More than a dozen of the 36 teams in the two divisions are on the brink of bankruptcy, according to media reports, and the league desperately needs to recoup 300 million euros ($325 million) it would be due from TV contracts if the clubs are allowed to complete the season.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and state premiers will set a date for the season to resume in a telephone conference later Wednesday, with media reporting May 21 was a possible candidate.
The Bundesliga would become the first major European league to return to action.
“Restarting match activity must be preceded by a two-week quarantine, where appropriate in the form of a training camp” for players, the document read.
Teams returned to training on April 6 although sessions have followed stringent social distancing rules and players are not allowed to change at training grounds.
– Positive coronavirus tests –
The football league (DFL) has long urged restarting play, which it says is vital for a sector that employs 56,000 people in Germany.
It has offered authorities a strict infection control plan based on intensive testing for coronavirus, which it says would allow the competition to be relaunched with low risk.
So far, clubs in the top two divisions have returned 10 positive results from 1,724 coronavirus tests since training resumed. Three of the cases are known to be from the Cologne club and two from Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Health Minister Jens Spahn has argued that the testing regime “makes sense and can serve as an example for other forms of professional sport,” although he warned “it has to be lived up to”.
The league reacted with consternation when Hertha Berlin player Salomon Kalou filmed himself shaking hands with teammates, flaunting the social distancing rules the clubs have put in place.
Hertha have suspended Kalou, who has apologised profusely.
If it gets the green light from politicians, the DFL will hold a general meeting by video conference Thursday where representatives from the clubs will finalise details for the restart.
Bayern Munich, seeking their eighth consecutive title, were four points clear at the top of the table when play was halted.
Leagues across Europe are taking different approaches to the unprecedented crisis.
The French league announced last week it will not resume the Ligue 1 or Ligue 2 seasons, with Paris Saint-Germain being awarded the top-flight title.
The Netherlands abandoned its season a week earlier. The decision to cancel Belgium’s Pro League still needs to be ratified.
The Premier League, Europe’s richest league, has said it aims to restart in June, but deep differences are emerging over plans to use neutral stadiums.
Players in Italy’s Serie A returned to training this week and in Spain, Barcelona have confirmed their players will undergo coronavirus tests on Wednesday as La Liga clubs begin restricted training ahead of the proposed resumption of the season next month.
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