After early promise, Austrian Bundesliga's return (and future) in doubt

Austria was one of the first European countries to loosen restrictions during the lock-down following the coronavirus outbreak, and players on the 12 teams in the Bundesliga, including Jesse Marsch's Red Bull Salzburg, were allowed to resume limited training more than two weeks ago.

When teams returned to training, Bundesliga president Christian Ebenbauer talked about resuming play in mid-May. Now, he isn't sure it will happen.

Chances of the Bundesliga finishing the 2019-20 season -- teams are set to begin the playoff stage in the championship and relegation rounds -- are in doubt over the government's insistence that a team -- and its opponent -- must be quarantined for 14 days if a player tests positive for COVID-19.

The quarantine policy, adopted by the Ministry of Health last week, applies not just to soccer but other major team sports like ice hockey, basketball, handball and volleyball.

"If the current policy remains in effect," Ebenbauer told the Austrian news agency APA, "there will be no team sports for a long period of time -- until there is a vaccination."

The Bundesliga will hold an extraordinary general meeting -- by video conference -- to Thursday for clubs to discuss the league's future.

As teams wrapped up the 22-game first stage, LASK led Red Bull Salzburg, the six-time defending champion, by three points. Clubs are divided about what to do. APA reported that Red Bull Salzburg, Rapid Vienna, Erik Palmer-Brown's Austria Wien and Sturm Graz want to continue while LASK, Admira and WSG Tirol are in favor of stopping.

Among the issues to be addressed: whether to take out a loan, how to deal with promotion and relegation and what to do about league licensing requirements.

One of the proposals underscores the seriousness of the situation: drop the league rule that a club is automatically relegated if it files for bankruptcy during a season.

Photo: Photonews/Panoramic/Icon Sportswire

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