A virtual meeting of representatives of the 36 Bundesliga clubs in the DFL took place this morning in Germany to discuss the leagues’ ongoing response to the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and when play might resume. DFL President Christian Seifert struck a somewhat grave note in the following press conference, although he also had some good news to share (kicker).
No restart date, but safe from insolvency
First and foremost, the DFL’s original intention to resume play on May 9 is off the table. Seifert said, “It is out of our hands whether we will play at all. And if so, when. Only the ability to create the conditions (for playing) is in our hands.”
If and when the Bundesliga resumes playing will be determined by the minister presidents of the German states in conjunction with Chancellor Angela Merkel. They are scheduled to meet on April 30 to discuss Germany’s lockdown measures.
Seifert said it would be “presumptuous, inappropriate, and not our decision” for the DFL to declare a start date on its own. But if the politicians decide that the Bundesliga can resume on May 9, “then we will be ready on May 9.”
Fortunately for the clubs, the DFL has reached agreements with all but one of its media partners to ensure that the remaining payments for broadcasting rights are paid in May, thus protecting vulnerable clubs from insolvency. Seifert added, “Agreements were also reached as to how to proceed if the season cannot be played until the end.” In that contingency, “certain repayment mechanisms” would take effect.
The DFL will also pay €7.5 million to support the 3.Liga and the Frauen-Bundesliga, with no strings attached.
Banking on ghost games — but for how long?
The DFL hopes to complete the season by holding “ghost games” without spectators, including various hygienic measures and strict rules on the number of people present — estimated at about 300 total.
The DFL would require a total of some 20,000 coronavirus tests so that players and personnel could be tested at least once weekly. Seifert stressed that this number of tests would not stress Germany’s overall supply: “All the laboratories have assured us in writing that their current capacities are sufficient and no limiting of their test capacities would occur on account of COVID-19”
Seifert also acknowledged, however, that the DFL must also prepare for the contingency that the season cannot be continued. If that were the case, “then we would also have to accept that.” But he stressed that if the Bundesliga could not resume soon, it also would not be able to continue in several months. “Then at some point the Bundesliga would be collateral damage of this coronavirus crisis,” Seifert said.
Finally, Seifert stated that it may not be possible to have any attended games in 2020. The DFL has instructed the clubs to plan for ghost games in the first part of the 2020/21 season. “We don’t know whether ghost games might still be taking place in February or March.” They are planning the “best possible worst-case scenario,” he said, quoting a club representative.