FRANKFURT: The German Bundesliga intends to resume the 2019-20 season on May 16, making it the first of Europe’s mainstream leagues to revive after the coronavirus stoppage.
The government of Chancellor Angela Merkel has confirmed formally that the Bundesliga and second-tier 2. Bundesliga could re-start in the second half of May without spectators, leaving the DFL to specify the dates.
Under the initial schedule, the first Geisterspiel – ghost game – was due to be the May 15 relegation battle between Fortuna Duesseldorf and Paderborn, but now all games will start the following day.
Elsewhere the Belgian government ended resumption by speculation by extending a sports ban to July 31 while Italy’s hopes of a Serie A revival hit a setback when a Torino player tested positive for coronavirus.
Merkel made the initial announcement as part of measures to begin easing the country’s lockdown aimed at halting the spread of the virus.
This followed a teleconference with officials from the 16 states to discuss easing the country’s lockdown measures.
DFL chief executive Christian Seifert said: “Today’s decision is good news for the Bundesliga and the 2nd Bundesliga,
“It comes with a great responsibility for the clubs and their employees to implement the medical and organisational requirements in a disciplined manner.
“Games without stadium spectators are not an ideal solution for anyone. However, in a crisis that threatens the existence of some clubs, it is the only way to ensure the continued existence of the leagues in their current form.”
A government statement also said teams would have to go into quarantined training camps ahead of the restart.
The decision was welcomed by Aleksander Ceferin, president of European federation UEFA. He said: “It is great news. This is a huge and positive step to bringing optimism back to people’s lives.
“It is the result of constructive dialogue and careful planning between the football authorities and politicians and I am confident that Germany will provide a shining example to all of us in how to bring football – with all its excitement, emotion and unpredictability- back into our lives.”
The Bundesliga has been on hold since mid-March because of the coronavirus outbreak which has brought football to a standstill around the world and Germany’s progress is likely to be closely watched by other leagues.
Bayern Munich, chasing an eighth successive title, currently lead the table with 55 points from 25 games, four ahead of Borussia Dortmund with RB Leipzig third on 50. There are nine rounds of matches to play.
The 26th match day also includes a Ruhr derby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 while Bayern would be away to Union Berlin.
At the bottom, Werder Bremen and Paderborn are in the drop zone with Fortuna Duesseldorf in 16th, which is the relegation/promotion playoff spot.
Germany’s professional teams have been training since mid-April, divided into small groups and under strict conditions, including extensive testing of all players and coaching staff.
On Monday, the DFL said it had registered 10 positive cases in a blanket test of 1,724 players and staff at its 36 first and second division clubs.
Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said: “I would like to thank the politicians for their decision today which has given us the opportunity to end the Bundesliga season. This ensures that sporting decisions are made on the pitch and not at the green table.”