The Bundesliga is to restart its season on May 15. The DFL, which operates the league, confirmed the decision to media outlets just hours after Chancellor Angela Merkel and state premiers had given it the green light.
Football is coming back – on May 15.
A matter of hours after Chancellor Angela Merkel and the premiers of Germany’s 16 states had announced that they had given the green light for the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 to restart in mid-May at the earliest, news emerged of just when the first games are to be played.
Several media organizations reported on Wednesday evening that they had obtained confirmation about a report originally published by the mass circulation daily Bild, that the German Football League (DFL) had decided to restart play on May 15.
According to the reports the 36 clubs have already been informed in a letter from DFL CEO Christian Seifert, which leading football
“After weighing up all the arguments, the DFL Executive Committee decided today by circular letter to resume play in the Bundesliga and 2nd Bundesliga from 15 May 2020,” it said.
Earlier in the day, Seifert had reacted to Chancellor Merkel’s statement at a Berlin press conference, describing the political decision as “good news for the Bundesliga.”
“It’s a great responsibility for the clubs to implement the medical and organizational guidelines in a disciplined manner,” Seifert added, referring to the DFL’s plans to restart play behind closed doors and in accordance with strict hygiene protocols and – to whatever extent is possible – physical distancing.
The DFL and it’s 36 member clubs are to discuss the restart in a video conference slated for Thursday.
The fact that the DFL has won approval to resume play even though a general government ban on mass public events remains in place, is not without its critics.
Karl Lauterbach, a prominent health expert with Chancellor Merkel’s coalition partners, the Social Democrats, slammed the decision as “disappointing and wrong,” saying it was driven by commercial interests.
However, Bavarian state premier Markus Söder defended the move.
“This compromise regarding football is absolutely justifiable – even though this is a controversial subject,” Söder said.
Special measures to protect health of players, staff
Under the DFL’s plan to protect the health of all involved, the games are only to go ahead after players have undergone a sufficient quarantine period in the form of training camps. Originally that period had been 14 days, but one week may also be possible with regular testing and negative test results.
The news comes as the rate of new COVID-19 cases in Germany dropped below 1,000 per day for the first time since mid-March.
Players change perception
The political green light also came off the back of a weekend that threatened to blow plans of a restart off course. First, Cologne midfielder Birger Verstraete voiced concerns on Belgian TV, only to backtrack on them. Then, on Monday, Hertha Berlin’s Salomon Kalou streamed a live video on Facebook that revealed players fist-bumping and social-distancing rules not being observed.
The DFL announced on Monday that the first wave of testing had been completed, with 10 cases of COVID-19 confirmed from approximately 1,700 tests. After a member of staff at second-division side Erzgebirge Aue tested positive for the coronavirus, the club put its entire squad in home isolation.
Finances a factor
Approximately €300 million ($325 million) in outstanding TV revenue is at stake should the season not be completed, according to German reports. The DFL had ensured the liquidity of its 36 clubs until the end of June by reaching a deal with media partners over the final TV payment, but those funds are contingent on the completion of the season.
Some Bundesliga fan groups though, are opposed to a return behind closed doors and see this as an opportunity for change.
The Bundesliga has not held a match since March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nine matchdays remain in both of Germany’s top two divisions.