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Coronavirus: Bundesliga bosses sign off on a May 9 return with 25,000 tests needed

Germany‘s Bundesliga is set to be the first major European league to resume amid the coronavirus pandemic after the 36 clubs in the top two divisions decided on a May 9 restart.

Matches would continue behind closed doors with a maximum of 322 people allowed in and around stadiums for top-flight Bundesliga matches and 270 for second-tier games.

The final decision on whether the planned resumption will be put into practice will rest, however, with the German Government and state health authorities.  

Germany's Bundesliga would be the first league in Europe to resume during the coronavirus pandemic, with the 36 clubs of the top two divisions signing off on a May 9 resumption

Germany's Bundesliga would be the first league in Europe to resume during the coronavirus pandemic, with the 36 clubs of the top two divisions signing off on a May 9 resumption

Germany’s Bundesliga would be the first league in Europe to resume during the coronavirus pandemic, with the 36 clubs of the top two divisions signing off on a May 9 resumption 

RB Leipzig's Timo Werner and other Bundesliga players could conclude the season from May 9

RB Leipzig's Timo Werner and other Bundesliga players could conclude the season from May 9

RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner and other Bundesliga players could conclude the season from May 9

Drastic changes will need to be made, however, to conform to hygiene standards with widespread testing of players and coaches at an estimated cost of £2.2million, pitchside sinks and protective masks mandatory for some in attendance.  

The German football federation has estimated that 25,000 coronavirus tests at around £90 each will be needed to check each player on at least a weekly basis.

DFL boss Christian Seifert said: ‘The Bundesliga is ready to resume, no matter whether on May 9 or a later date. But it’s not up to us to find a date. The political decision makers decide.’ 

On the issue of testing, he added: ‘Professional football would not even consume 0.4 percent of the available test capacity in the country.’ 

The decision, which followed a video conference between representatives of all 36 clubs on Thursday morning, comes despite warnings from German Chancellor Angela Merkel that some states have eased lockdown restrictions too soon. 

Cautioning that Germany will have to live with coronavirus ‘for the long haul’, Merkel said ‘we can’t return to life like it was before’ as the country’s death toll passed 5,000.

But football may resume in a little over two weeks, with the last fixture, between Borussia Monchengladbach and Cologne, played back on March 11. 

Stadiums such as Borussia Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park will remain closed to spectators

Stadiums such as Borussia Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park will remain closed to spectators

Stadiums such as Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park will remain closed to spectators 

The majority of Bundesliga sides have nine matches of the season to complete and the aim is to finish these during May and June.

A draft timetable would see matchday 26 of the season played over the weekend of May 9/10 with the 34th and final matchday on June 27/28.

Two midweek matchdays have been scheduled in June to ensure all the remaining games can be fitted in. 

There is also space in May to fit in the semi-finals of the German Cup, which will see Bayern Munich play Eintracht Frankfurt and fourth-tier Saarbrucken play Bayer Leverkusen.   

A draft schedule for the resumption of the German season commences with matchday 26 of the season on May 9/10 with two midweek league matchdays to ensure a late June finish

A draft schedule for the resumption of the German season commences with matchday 26 of the season on May 9/10 with two midweek league matchdays to ensure a late June finish

A draft schedule for the resumption of the German season commences with matchday 26 of the season on May 9/10 with two midweek league matchdays to ensure a late June finish

There has been no football played in Germany since march 11 because of the lockdown

There has been no football played in Germany since march 11 because of the lockdown

There has been no football played in Germany since march 11 because of the lockdown

Players have been training in small groups with their clubs for two weeks now in anticipation of a return to action. 

A leaked report ahead of Thursday’s meeting stated that a ‘medically acceptable risk’ would need to be taken in view of the social and economic importance of football.

It read: ‘It cannot be the goal to guarantee 100 per cent security for all concerned because that might turn out to be impossible.’

The approximately 1,100 players involved in the games will have to be tested with nose and throat swabs for Covid-19 symptoms, as well as coaching staff and match referees, but details of how this will work practically need to be finalised.

It is estimated it will cost £2.2m to get the 25,000 tests necessary to ensure each players is checked weekly. Players will also be shown how to identify coronavirus symptoms.  

The report suggested that tests will be carried out ‘as close as possible to each match (i.e. at least twice in some game weeks) with a result arriving in good time before the players get to the stadium.’

But expert virologist Professor Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit told German newspaper BILD: ‘Strictly speaking, every player would have to be checked every day. Otherwise a silent spread of the virus between the players or teams cannot be ruled out.’

German players have been training for a couple of weeks, including Dortmund's Erling Haaland

German players have been training for a couple of weeks, including Dortmund's Erling Haaland

German players have been training for a couple of weeks, including Dortmund’s Erling Haaland

Bayern Munich's Thomas Muller in training as coach Hans-Dieter Flick watches on

Bayern Munich's Thomas Muller in training as coach Hans-Dieter Flick watches on

Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller in training as coach Hans-Dieter Flick watches on 

A task force assigned to investigate the logistics of playing games amid the pandemic concluded that social distancing must apply inside stadiums.

The maximum of 322 people in and around stadiums on matchdays includes players, coaches, referees, journalists, cameramen, doping control officers, stewards, groundsmen and ball boys.

They will be divided into three defined zones – inside the stadium, in the stands and outside the stadium – with about 100 in each.

Teams will arrive at the stadium separately and rituals such as pre-match handshakes and team photographs will be abandoned. There will be no player mascots.

Protective masks will be mandatory for medical personnel, pitchside sinks will be required for hygiene reasons and those involved in television production, while press conferences will be conducted virtually.

Empty stadium scenes such as this at the Borussia Monchengladbach vs Cologne match on March 11 will become commonplace as German football resumes

Empty stadium scenes such as this at the Borussia Monchengladbach vs Cologne match on March 11 will become commonplace as German football resumes

Empty stadium scenes such as this at the Borussia Monchengladbach vs Cologne match on March 11 will become commonplace as German football resumes

How the German title race was shaping up prior to the shutdown of the league in March

How the German title race was shaping up prior to the shutdown of the league in March

How the German title race was shaping up prior to the shutdown of the league in March

Indeed, everyone in the dug-outs will have to sit two or three seats apart to maintain some form of social distancing as a precaution.

And players face the prospect of washing their own kit to avoid contamination.

Temperature checks will be taken using an ear thermometer on everyone at a security-controlled entrance to the stadium.

The task force has recommended there should be ‘no automatic reporting of a positive (coronavirus) case to the press, since disease verification as well as clear documentation of suspected transmission routes take priority,’ raising questions about transparency.

And the experts also said the automatic quarantine of the whole squad in the event of one positive test may not be necessary, only those who had face-to-face contact with the infected person for at least 15 minutes or other direct contact.

 

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