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Coronavirus - DFL Christian Seifert
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Dedert

DFL awaiting green light to restart the season

James Thorogood
April 23, 2020

The Bundesliga is "ready" to restart once state authorities give the green light, according to DFL President Christian Seifert. With no set return date, a deal has been struck to secure club's financial futures for now.

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When the German football calendar resumes remains unclear. But the short-term financial futures of all 36 clubs in the top two divisions have been secured.

Following an assembly of the German Football League (DFL), the company that governs the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2, its president, Christian Seifert, outlined a proposal for the restart of the 2019-20 season under new conditions.

The proposal will be on the agenda when Chancellor Angela Merkel discusses Germany's latest coronavirus measures with the leaders of all German federal states on April 30 in Berlin. 

A return in May would make it the first major European football competition to do so, but the decision regarding a return date ultimately rests with state authorities.

 

"There have been statements and a lot of speculation when that will be. It remains crucial for us to remain politically responsible. Therefore, it is not up to us to decide on a start date. When that day X comes we'll be ready," Seifert said at a press conference on Thursday.

"We haven't defined a date as we can't. It would be presumptuous of us to do so. It is not in our hands if we return or when. We have several schedule options. The first weekend in May is no longer realistic. If the signal comes in the next week that it can be May 9, then it will be May 9. What we have in our hands is the ability to provide those charged with making a decision with proof that we're ready," he said.

Crunching numbers

German football was suspended on March 13 as the league sought to play their part in flattening the curve. Recently, state politicians have openly discussed the eventuality of games behind closed doors, known as "Geisterspiele" (ghost games) in German.

Seifert admitted that "games without fans are not what we want," but reiterated that the DFL will be putting strict protocols in place should they be given the green light.

"In the Bundesliga, 98 people are allowed in the interior area of the stadium and another 115 in the grandstand area. That is a maximum of 213 people in the stadium. A maximum of 109 people may be present in the outside area," explained Seifert.

Coronavirus: Bundesliga clubs in financial limbo

Players will undergo regular testing as led by an appointed health official. A positive test, though, would not automatically result in the whole squad being quarantined.

The DFL estimated it would need 22,000 coronavirus tests for the remainder of the season. In his press conference, Seifert quoted an estimate of Germany's test capacity of 818,00 per week from the Robert Koch Institute, the country's health authority, before underlining that German football "wouldn't use even 0.4% of that."

Financial survival secured, for now

With the 2019-20 season on hold, recent media reports had suggested that up to 13 of the 36 clubs in Germany's top two divisions were facing what Seifert had previously called an "existential threat."

The DFL president was able to appease those fears when he announced a deal struck with "almost all" media partners to secure payment of the remaining TV funds, a deal contingent on the season being completed. The agreement "makes possible the liquidity of clubs until June 30," he said.

If the campaign were to end prematurely, "the Bundesliga would become collateral damage of the coronavirus crisis," admitted Seifert, adding that, "as a representative of the clubs, I can't have that as a goal."

"We are not thinking about when the new season will start or what it will look like. We are only dealing with finishing the current season. If it was up to us we would like to be finished by June 30."

Seifert also announced that the DFL would use €7.5 million ($8.1 million) from a solidarity fund to support Germany's third division and the Women's Bundesliga, two leagues more reliant on ticket sales. The fund was started in March with a €20 million donation from Germany's Champions League representatives — Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen.

James Thorogood Sports reporter and editor, host of Project FußballJMThorogood
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