German chancellor Angela Merkel has agreed the Bundesliga can resume play next weekend, with league officials deciding they will begin on May 6.
Club representatives from the country’s top two divisions – 36 sides in total – discussed how and exactly when they progress after these latest developments during a video meeting today.
Merkel’s proposal, leaked to the press on Tuesday night, initially demanded a two-week quarantine period – surprising clubs and league executives. This was because of the league’s 51-page medical advice, which said that an eight-day quarantine would suffice.
The second version of her proposal saw that two-week requirement removed and although there was still opposition from some states – Bremen and Rhineland-Palatinate, they came to an eventual agreement after three hours.
This latest update coincides with another partial return to normality as Germany gradually moves out of lockdown. Across the country, many shops, playgrounds and hairdressers have re-opened this week.
In the weeks that follow, there will be a staggered return to school and partial reopening of restaurants and tourist attractions, on a state-by-state basis.
As I reported earlier in the week, there was a widespread belief that football would resume in Germany at some time this month, despite 10 positive COVID-19 tests being announced from players and staff tested in the country’s top two divisions.
They were all asymptomatic and have gone into a two-week quarantine period. The head of Bundesliga’s task force Dr. Tim Meyer said this was proof their system was working.
Naturally, concerns over the morality of the Bundesliga’s impending return remain – as well as players’ private worries.
England’s top-flight are sure to be watching closely.
Yesterday, there were 1,155 new COVID-19 cases in Germany and a further 282 deaths. Their total is now at 7,275.
As for the UK? 6,111 new cases over the same 24-hour period with 649 deaths. Total deaths surpassed 30,000 – now at 30,076.
(Updated stats for Wednesday, May 6)
Eintracht Frankfurt sporting director Fredi Bobic estimated that 90% of professionals supported the league’s plans. If true, that still leaves a considerable amount of those who oppose.
However, the players’ union in Germany is relatively weak, meaning professionals don’t have much of a voice. Unlike in the Premier League though, team doctors are firmly on board.
Okay, so what’s next?
The first question regards fixture scheduling: do they play games that were originally due on matchday 26, when the sport was suspended?
If that’s the case, player suspensions would be in effect for the ‘right’ games based on the calendar, while matches continue in their intended order until the campaign is complete.
The biggest pre-concern surrounding this method sees Borussia Dortmund face Schalke 04 in the Ruhr derby immediately after the hiatus, with fears over such a high-profile fixture prompting people to flock into homes in big groups to watch live on television.
Sky Germany own the rights to show all Saturday and Sunday matches and one way to reduce the risk of people breaking social distancing protocol is to make that game available on free-to-air TV, or by sublicensing it to one of the public broadcasters.
It’s likely they will gift non-paying viewers a handful of fixtures between now and the season’s end as a courtesy given these unprecedented times, but the decision remains up to Sky whether they want to do so in this case.
As per The Athletic’s Raphael Honigstein, the league may also resume by operating their calendar in reverse: matchday 34 and going backwards like that or creating a new fixture list from the games still outstanding.
He said: “The main advantage of this more radical solution would be the chance to minimise travel as much as possible in the early stages, help teams adhere to the league’s strict medical guidelines with regard to transportation.
Players will be instructed to use their own cars to get to home games and regular team buses will be replaced by a fleet of people carriers for away fixtures. Despite these considerations, most clubs are believed to favour a return with matchday 26.”
The German FA are determined to stage the DFB Pokal semi-finals and final before the end of June, which means the Bundesliga will have to schedule at least three rounds of midweek fixtures.
Finishing as quickly as possible is seen as the best way forward, which also reduces number of tests required – doing so bi-weekly – and lessens risk of players/officials getting infected.
The total number required has been revised up from 20,000 closer to 25,000, should games be staged every three days. Germany’s daily capacity runs at roughly 142,000 right now.