Germany may have the fifth most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world, but they have a low mortality rate, a well-stocked and well-resourced healthcare system, and a relatively flat curve. They’re the South Korea of Europe, if not even better in terms of fighting the novel coronavirus, as the New York Times put it.
What this commendable response and preparedness to deal with the pandemic means for football is that the Bundesliga has a seemingly realistic chance to resume playing next month.
Teams across both of the top two divisions have returned to socially distanced training this week and the league has put in “cleareyed” plans for getting teams to start playing again without endangering the public or taking up valuable healthcare and policing resources.
Interview: Bundesliga CEO says:— tariq panja (@tariqpanja) April 8, 2020
- all teams back in training
- planning to resume season early May behind closed doors and finish before June 30
- no fans expected until next year
- transfer market will collapse
Compare that to England, where even a June restart seems highly optimistic, even though the Premier League and the Bundesliga officially suspended their seasons on the exact same day, March 13.
The BuLi’s plan for games under our coronavirus reality include all the expected precautions.
- “Ghost games” i.e. no fans, perhaps as far into the future as the end of the calendar year, according to Bundesliga CEO Christian Seifert, who also expects the transfer market to “collapse” in the short term (he’s probably not wrong)
- “No added burden” on health care systems: this is both an aim and a benefit. The league estimates that 240 people will be involved altogether for each game, but thanks to abundant supplies, quick-testing those involved will not take away resources from hospitals. Same goes for the medical personnel as well.
“It won’t be the case that one doctor or one nurse that is really relevant for the system cannot be tested because football players have to be tested.”
“The concept is to give certainty to players, to their families and to society as well.”
-Christian Seifert; source: New York Times
Not all the details have been hashed out just yet, with two working groups set up to deal with the “practicalities” of staging games (uniforms, hygiene measures, what to do if someone does test positive), but it sounds like they might actually have a realistic and reasonable shot at playing in about a month assuming they get government approval.
Meanwhile in the Premier League, we’re still fighting over wage cuts.