Frankfurt / Main – German professional football is in the starting blocks for a season continuation and eagerly awaits the decisive signal from politics.
“It is not up to us to set a start date,” said DFL boss Christian Seifert after the general assembly of the 36 first and second division teams. «If it were May 9th, we would be ready. If it will be any day after that, we are ready, ”announced the managing director of the German Football League.
Seifert called the first weekend in May as the start date for a resumption of play operations that had been suspended since mid-March “unrealistic”. It would be “presumptuous to define a date ourselves, it doesn’t belong to us, and it’s not up to us,” he clarified. Prime Minister and Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold a conference on April 30 – a decision could then be made.
Behind the scenes, however, the multi-billion dollar industry is also dealing with a worst-case scenario if politicians and health experts come to a different assessment than what the clubs hope for. If it is not possible to return to gaming in a timely manner, it must be clear «that we will not be playing in a few months. Then the Bundesliga would be collateral damage to this corona crisis at some point, »emphasized Seifert.
To avoid this, a task force led by DFB chief medical officer Tim Meyer developed a comprehensive concept that was presented to the clubs at the roughly three-hour video conference and defined the framework conditions for a continuation of the season. A specific date for the return to regular team training is not included.
For this, the organizational strategy contains strict organizational requirements. A maximum of approximately 300 people should be involved in the execution of individual ghost games – including players and coaches. There are also clear guidelines for hygiene measures.
The players should be tested closely for the coronavirus during the season, at least once a week. For this, the DFL anticipates a need for around 20,000 tests. “We have also entered into a cooperation agreement here with a total of five laboratory associations,” said Seifert. “”All laboratories have assured us in writing that the current capacities are sufficient and that Covid-19 will not limit the test capacities.””
An almost socio-political controversy broke out over whether the football professionals should be constantly checked despite the lack of symptoms. The Robert Koch Institute also raised doubts about the usefulness. The Federal Ministry of the Interior spoke out against the early scheduling of the restart.
The discussions about the restart had picked up a lot this week after the Prime Minister Markus Söder (Bavaria / CSU) and Armin Laschet (North Rhine-Westphalia / CDU) publicly brought May 9 into play as a possible date. There was plenty of criticism for this, against which Seifert resisted. Like other companies in the Corona crisis, the German Football League is a company “that wants to return and has to return at some point”.
It is clear that this can only be done with ghost games and games without a spectator are currently the only way to “keep the Bundesliga as we know it alive. I ask everyone who is interested in the Bundesliga to be lenient and to support them, »said Seifert. It is conceivable that this restriction could apply until the end of the year or even beyond. The clubs were therefore asked to plan the first half of the coming season without audience revenue.
In the short term, the liquidity of the league is secured after the DFL has reached an agreement with almost all media partners on prepayment of the TV premiums still outstanding. “We had intensive discussions that were characterized by respect,” said Seifert and announced: “The first payments should be triggered in May at short notice.” Only a company whose name has not been given does not want to pay.
“Agreements have also been made on how to deal with this if the season cannot be played to the end. It is also clear that if the season does not start again, certain mechanisms for repayment apply. » In this case there could be bottlenecks at some clubs.
In the event of a season continuation, Seifert also made the fans responsible. “When we play again, there is clearly an argument that there shouldn’t be any crowds at the stadium,” he said. Otherwise, the game could even be aborted. The clubs would, therefore, have to enter into an intensive dialogue with their supporters in order to avoid such scenarios.