The Bundesliga announced late last month that it planned to restart its season sometime in May; play was halted March 13. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and 16 state governors met last week to discuss that idea, along with other plans to reopen the country, but postponed a decision until Wednesday on whether the Bundesliga could resume. Citing unidentified sources Tuesday, Reuters reported that the soccer leagues will indeed be allowed to resume under heavy restrictions, probably starting May 15.
The games will be played without fans and with only around 300 people allowed into the stadiums. Players, who have been allowed to practice at team facilities in small groups for the past few weeks, and team personnel will be tested again this week and then regularly throughout the rest of the season, the league has announced.
“Everyone is looking to Germany for how we handle it, how we prepare, how the games will be hopefully in the future. That is why we spend a lot of time to do everything to be well prepared and very good organized,” Simon Rolfes, sporting director for Bayer Leverkusen, told The Washington Post last week.
Should players test positive for the coronavirus after the season resumes, the DFL has said only that “the local health authorities are responsible for making decisions on measures to be taken.” Other sports leagues have established much more stringent guidelines. The professional baseball league in South Korea, which began its season Tuesday and is one of the few sports leagues around the globe that is actually playing, will suspend games for at least three weeks if a player tests positive.
Thanks in part to aggressive testing, Germany has kept its coronavirus death rate comparatively low, allowing the country to slowly ease restrictions on businesses and social life. Hair salons, playgrounds, museums, churches and zoos were allowed to reopen with restrictions this week, and some students have returned to school. On Tuesday, the country reported 488 additional infections in the previous 24 hours, the country’s lowest total in about five weeks. Still, Merkel has cautioned against reopening the country too quickly.
The DFL hopes to finish the Bundesliga season by June 30, when player contracts expire. Each team has nine games remaining. German soccer officials have said a number of teams face dire financial straits if the season cannot be finished.