Coronavirus: Germany’s Bundesliga to resume this month, says Angela Merkel – BBC Sport

Bayern Munich lead the Bundesliga table by five points

The German Bundesliga season can resume this month, Chancellor Angela Merkel has confirmed.

It will become the first major league in Europe to return to competition, and clubs have been told by the German Football League (DFL) that it wants to restart on 15 May.

All matches will be played behind closed doors.

With nine games remaining, Bayern Munich are top of the table, four points above Borussia Dortmund.

The start date will be confirmed on Thursday after the 36 clubs and the DFL have met via video link.

Bayern chairman Karl Heinz Rummenigge said: “I would like to thank the politicians for giving today’s decision [and for] the opportunity to finish the Bundesliga season.

“We are now looking forward to resuming play, ideally from mid-May. This ensures that the sporting decisions are made on the pitch.

“I appeal to everyone involved to follow the requirements, which are the basis for resuming games, in an exemplary and extremely disciplined manner.”

Christian Seifert, chief executive of the DFL, added: “Today’s decision is good news for the Bundesliga and the Bundesliga 2.

“It is associated with a great responsibility for the clubs and their employees to implement the medical and organisational requirements in a disciplined manner.

“Games without spectators are not an ideal solution for anyone. In a crisis threatening the very existence of some clubs, however, it is the only way to keep the leagues in their current form.”

The announcement comes a day after clubs in the top two German divisions returned 10 positive results from 1,724 coronavirus tests.

The DFL had warned that many top-division teams would be in an “existence-threatening” financial position if play did not resume by June.

Players returned to training last month, with the DFL initially saying the league would be ready to return on 9 May.

Germany has banned large events with crowds until 24 October, so games will be behind closed doors, but the DFL has developed a health and safety plan that would see only about 300 people or near the pitch during matches, to minimise the risk of infection.

According to official figures, just under 7,000 people have died in Germany from coronavirus, a much lower figure than in other western European countries including the UK, Italy, France and Spain.

Borussia Monchengladbach fans show support with cut-outs

It was also announced on Wednesday that the Turkish Super Lig will resume on 12 June with the aim being to complete the season by the end of July.

The country’s football federation chairman Nihat Ozdemir said Turkey intended to host the Champions League final in Istanbul in August as planned.

The Croatian top-flight is also poised to resume – without spectators – with cup ties to take place on 30 May, followed by league action on 6 June, pending government approval.

Spain’s La Liga has announced plans for a June return and president Javier Tebas said the league was “pleased” with the Bundesliga’s decision.

“This is good news for European football and for the return to the new normal after this crisis,” he added.

Analysis

John Bennett, BBC World Service

Over the years we’ve come to expect German football success on the pitch but this feels like a victory for their clear, detailed and, above all, collective planning off the pitch.

Back on 23 April, DFL president Christian Seifert revealed the league’s proposals for matches behind closed doors, collaborating with five laboratories and involving around 20,000 tests and it appears to have impressed the local and national government.

That’s despite some setbacks over the past week, such as Salomon Kalou’s social media video, which showed him flouting social distancing rules at Hertha Berlin, and the fact that 10 players or members of staff have tested positive for coronavirus.

The clubs have put a huge amount of work into this though and Bayer Leverkusen sporting director Simon Rolfes assured me this week that his players feel safe now that there is testing every three or four days and temperature checks every day as they arrive at the training centre.

They are certainly under pressure to make this work, with vital TV money at stake. One player told me he felt a duty to play again because in the Bundesliga clubs don’t have rich owners who can bail them out.

It will be interesting to see whether this news can give the Premier League, Serie A and La Liga extra impetus in their efforts to resume. One thing the German football authorities have demonstrated is that it needs to be a collective and unified effort from clubs, league and players.

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