Berlin, 6 May 2020 (dpa/MIA) — Germany’s Bundesliga and second division will become the first major European football leagues to resume after the government gave the green light on Wednesday for a restart in the second half of May.
The leagues have been suspended since March 13 because of the coronavirus outbreak but will now aim to complete the remaining nine rounds without fans by June 30.
An exact start date is yet to be announced.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and the premiers of the 16 German states held a videoconference and agreed to reduce some lockdown restrictions, including ending the ban on professional football without fans.
“The Bundesliga will be able to resume operations soon,” Merkel told a news conference, with sources familiar with the talks telling dpa that meant from the second half of May.
Restrictions for amateur and grassroots sport have also been slightly eased.
Sports events with supporters are still set to be banned until the end of August, at least.
The German Football League (DFL) and German Football Federation (DFB) have provided a detailed manual on how matches can take place in an environment as safe as possible, with distancing rules to be observed off the pitch and frequent testing of everyone.
A first wave of tests saw ten people at the 36 clubs testing positive for the Sars-CoV-2 virus, from 1,724 tests.
A draft government resolution seen by dpa early on Wednesday had mentioned a two-week quarantine period for team training camps ahead of matches, but the time reference was removed from a later version.
Some opposition politicians have said a May resumption is too early.
Green politician Monika Lazar said: “While particularly exposed professional groups, such as nurses in nursing homes, are still not sufficiently tested for COVID-19, this is exactly what is now being done with professional footballers.”
Other sportspeople have lamented the impression football is being prioritized. “It is perverse,” said javelin thrower Johannes Vetter.
The decision on the Bundesliga though could open the door for sports such as basketball to finish their seasons – with potentially stricter hygiene rules for indoor sports halls.
Bundesliga teams are now expected to play two games a week once action behind closed doors resumes. Some health experts fear fans may congregate outside stadiums, increasing the infection risk, but clubs have rejected such worries.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn said football still needed to be cautious after now suspended Hertha Berlin attacker Salomon Kalou videoed himself this week shaking hands with team-mates at training.
“We have seen in the last few days that some people obviously still need to be made to understand that something is at stake here,” Spahn told ZDF.
“But my impression is that many millions of fans in Germany are also naturally asking when the league can start again.”