German clubs buoyed by potential mid-May season restart
BERLIN: German football clubs are hoping a return to action is on the horizon, even if it means playing in closed stadiums, after the country's health minister and regional leaders said matches could potentially resume from May 9.
The Bundesliga has been suspended since mid-March due to the outbreak of the new coronavirus, which has infected more than 143,000 and killed over 4,500 in Germany.
Regional leaders in Bavaria and North Rhine Westphalia said on Monday that any league resumption would be without fans and that there would be no action before May 9.
"These are very positive signals for any resumption of the season," said Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in a statement.
"It is important that we carefully adhere to any legal and medical guidelines in order to minimise any health risk."
Borussia Dortmund also welcomed the news, saying politicians had been convinced by the league's plans and that it was now up to clubs to stick to it.
"This is a show of faith from politics if it means we can play again from May 9 onwards," Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said.
"If the league did not have such a well thought-out plan then politicians would have taken a different decision. We now have an obligation to deliver."
German Health Minister Jens Spahn told Bild newspaper on Sunday that a resumption on May 9 would depend on the infection risk.
"What is crucial is that the infection risk is minimised," Spahn said. "That would be for millions of football fans from May 9 onwards a bit of normalcy even with empty stands."
The German Football League will meet on Thursday to discuss the latest developments and consider a possible start date. Bayern are top of the Bundesliga, four points clear of Dortmund, with nine games left in the campaign.
The League has warned that many clubs in the first and second divisions faced an uncertain financial future and several would be in an "existence-threatening" situation if play did not resume by June.
Some German shops opened for business again this week after a month of lockdown in an agreement with the leaders of Germany's 16 states, all keen to start the long haul of pulling the economy out of recession.