Germany’s Bundesliga can re-start in the second half of May following the coronavirus stoppage, Chancellor Angela Merkel has confirmed.
The announcement was made as part of an easing of lockdown measures. The Bundesliga has been on hold since mid-March because of the pandemic. The German Football League is due to decide on Thursday to decide on further details.
Politicians believe resuming matches in the first and second divisions to “limit the economic damage” for the 36 clubs is “acceptable”, the document showed.
More than a dozen of the 36 teams in the top two divisions are on the brink of bankruptcy, according to media reports, and the league desperately needs to recoup €300m it would be due from TV contracts if the clubs are allowed to complete the season.
Media are reporting the weekend of 23/24 May was being earmarked as the return date.
The Bundesliga would become the first major European league to return to action.
Teams returned to training on 6 April although sessions have followed stringent social distancing rules and players are not allowed to change at training grounds. Before matches, players will have to undergo a form of quarantine.
The government document said: “Restarting match activity must be preceded by a two-week quarantine, where appropriate in the form of a training camp.”
The football league (DFL) has long urged restarting play, which it says is vital for a sector that employs 56,000 people in Germany.
It says an intensive testing plan would allow matches to be relaunched with low risk.
So far, clubs in the top two divisions have returned 10 positive results for coronavirus from 1,724 tests since training resumed. Three of the cases are known to be from the Cologne club and two from Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Health Minister Jens Spahn has argued that the testing regime “makes sense and can serve as an example for other forms of professional sport,” although he warned “it has to be lived up to”.
The league and politicians reacted with consternation when Hertha Berlin player Salomon Kalou filmed himself shaking hands with teammates this week, flaunting the social distancing rules the clubs have put in place.
“The video has done the German league and professional football a disservice,” Anja Stahmann, who chairs Germany’s regional sports ministers, told RBB radio on Wednesday.
Hertha have suspended Kalou, and the 34-year-old former Chelsea player has apologised profusely.
If it gets the green light from politicians, the DFL will hold a general meeting by video conference Thursday where representatives from the clubs will finalise details for the restart.
Bayern Munich, seeking their eighth consecutive title, were four points clear at the top of the table when play was halted.
Leagues across Europe are taking different approaches to the unprecedented crisis.
The French league announced last week it will not resume the Ligue 1 or Ligue 2 seasons, with Paris Saint-Germain being awarded the top-flight title.
The Netherlands abandoned its season a week earlier while a decision to cancel Belgium’s Pro League still needs to be ratified.
The Premier League, Europe’s richest league, has said it aims to restart in June, but deep differences are emerging over plans to use neutral stadiums.
Players in Italy’s Serie A returned to training this week and in Spain, Barcelona say players will undergo coronavirus tests on Wednesday as La Liga clubs begin restricted training ahead of a proposed resumption of the season next month.