BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s Bundesliga is set to become the first of Europe’s top soccer leagues to get under way following the novel coronavirus stoppage after the government said on Wednesday that it could re-start in the second half of May.
The government said the Bundesliga and second-tier 2. Bundesliga could restart without spectators, adding that the German soccer league (DFL) would decide on the exact dates.
Chancellor Angela Merkel made the announcement, which had been widely expected, as part of measures to begin easing the country’s lockdown aimed at halting the spread of the virus.
The DFL is due to hold an assembly with its 36 member clubs on Thursday followed by a news conference in which more details are expected to be given.
“Today’s decision is good news for the Bundesliga and the 2nd Bundesliga,” said DFL chief executive Christian Seifert.
“It comes with a great responsibility for the clubs and their employees to implement the medical and organisational requirements in a disciplined manner.”
He added that “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 league has been on hold since mid-March because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Officials from the 16 states held a teleconference with Merkel on Wednesday to discuss easing the country’s lockdown measures.
The coronavirus outbreak 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.
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.
“I would like to thank the politicians for their decision today which has given us the opportunity to end the Bundesliga season,” said Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. “This ensures that sporting decisions are made on the pitch and not at the green table.”
Reporting by Holger Hansen; Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Ken Ferris and Toby Davis