The Bundesliga will be
the first of Europe's big leagues to resume play following the coronavirus outbreak after getting the green light from the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The government gave the Bundesliga and second-tier 2. Bundesliga permission to restart behind closed doors as part of a series of measures to further relax restrictions in Germany. Measures for the reopening of department stores and shopping malls were approved, as well as a phased reopening of restaurants and bars by May 22.
Approval was expected after weeks of planning and negotiations between the German league (DFL) and German federal officials and state leaders. Some teams have been training in small groups for more than a month.
A 51-page document titled the Hygienekonzept laid out a detailed plan of who will be at the matches, a maximum of 322 people for Bundesliga games. It calls for 20,000 tests for the coronavirus to be administered, not just to players but also their families. If a player tests positive, he will have to self-quarantine, but his teammates -- and opponents -- won't.
Before play resumes, the DFL will have to pick a date for the restart of league play, which was suspended on March 13 with nine games to play. The likely date is May 15 though some favored May 22. A decision will be confirmed when the DFL assembles on Thursday.
Players and staff will have to go into isolation for a week before play can start. With a May 15 start date expected, teams will have to move into hotels this weekend. The original plan of the German government called for a 14-day isolation period.
Christian Seifert, the DFL CEO, had pushed for the restart, arguing that clubs faced financial ruin if the season couldn't be completed.
“Today’s decision is good news for the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga," he said. "It is associated with a great responsibility for the clubs and their employees to implement the medical and organizational requirements in a disciplined manner. Matches without stadium spectators are not an ideal solution for anyone. However, during this crisis, which threatens the existence of some clubs, it is the only option to preserve the leagues in their present form. Today I’d like to thank the decision-makers at the state and federal level for placing their confidence in us."
The decision had its detractors. Karl Lauterbach, a health expert in the Social Democrat Party, said it was "disappointing and wrong,'' driven by business interests.