- Most major sports around the world remain on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A number of leagues have started discussing contingency plans for a return to action though none have given a firm date.
- Germany’s Bundesliga soccer league could become the first major sports league to resume play.
The major North American sports leagues have started to float trial balloons and offer contingency plans for the possibility that they might return to action in the not too distant future. While none of the North American circuits have looked especially anxious to become the first back to work that isn’t the case in Europe. In fact, it now appears that Germany’s top soccer league aka the Bundesliga could become the first major sports organization in the world to return to action.
Last week, Christian Seifert, CEO of the German Football League (Deutsche Fußball Liga), said that Bundesliga could return to action by the second weekend in May if it receives the approval of government officials.
“The game is suspended until April 30th. We have several game plan options. However, it is not realistic to start on the first weekend in May. But we will be ready on May 9th — or when the signal comes …”
On Thursday, Siefert added:
“Games without spectators are not what we want but at the moment the only thing that seems feasible.”
The idea has a good deal of support from Germany’s political elite including Bavarian state Premier Markus Söder and Armin Laschet, the state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany’s most popular state) who have both indicated that they wouldn’t object to football coming back next month. Söder quipped:
“A weekend with football is much more bearable than a weekend without football.”
The idea of playing football without fans in attendance received a conditional endorsement from Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn who told the Bild newspaper that “the overall concept, closed door games are definitely possible again” contingent on adequate safeguards taken to minimize the risk of infection.
The hope is that the Bundesliga season can be completed by the end of June. Each team has 9 matches left of their 34 game schedule. Simon Rolfes, Bayer Leverkusen’s sporting director, thinks it will give fans a boost in Germany and around the world:
“It will be a big joy for a lot of people, not only in Germany but around the world. Sport, in the end, everybody loves it. It will also be important to society, if they get a little bit of normal life back with sports — Saturday night, big game. It will be very good for a lot of fans.”
“Everyone is looking to Germany for how we handle it, how we prepare, how the games will be hopefully in the future. That is why we spend a lot of time to do everything to be well prepared and very good organized.”
Rolfes continued to indicate that everything on the soccer side of the equation is ready to go. The only major factor left to be determined is the ‘timing’ of a return which he concedes is up to the political ruling class:
“It’s important to decide how society is in Germany from a medical point of view, but from the preparation and organization, we could start in the next days,. Everything is prepared, but the decision is now [about] the right timing. That is the question for the politicians.”
Germany has appeared to get a handle on the Coronavirus pandemic with confirmed cases and deaths on a decidedly downward trend in the country.