German government officials announced Wednesday that the Bundesliga – the country’s top soccer league – can resume play later this month.

Bundesliga
 German footballers could take the pitch as early as May 15, making Bundesliga the first major European soccer league to restart play. (Image: Sebastian Widmann/Bongarts/Getty)

Chancellor Angela Merkel and state prime ministers agreed that the Bundesliga could resume as soon as May 15, though league officials may still decide to start a week later on May 22.

DFL Praises Government Decision

The German Football League (DFL) will meet on Thursday to decide the exact resumption date. Both the Bundesliga and the second-tier Bundesliga 2 will follow the same timeline.

Initially, Merkel and some states wished to force a two-week quarantine period on all clubs, which would have pushed the restart to May 22. But the final proposal gives the league a bit more flexibility in determining when they are ready to get back to action.

“Today’s decision is good news for the Bundesliga and the Bundesliga 2,” DFL chief executive Christian Seifert said via ESPN. “It is associated with a great responsibility for the clubs and their employees to implement the medical and organizational requirements in a disciplined manner. Games without spectators are not an ideal solution for anyone. In a crisis threatening the very existence of some clubs, however, it is the only way to keep the leagues in their current form.”

According to The Athletic, French president Emmanuel Macron lobbied for the cancellation of the Bundesliga season. Macron himself announced the end of France’s Ligue 1 last week.

Bundesliga Considering Alternate Schedules

Large gatherings are still a source of concern in Germany. While the Bundesliga won’t have fans in attendance in the near future, there are fears – particularly for some rivalry matches – that fan groups may congregate outside of stadiums, despite supporter organizations saying they won’t do so.

Those fears might influence how the Bundesliga resumes. If the schedule picks up where it left off, Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 will immediately play each other in a derby match. The Athletic reports that Sky Germany – which has the rights to all weekend matches – could potentially make the game available on free-to-air television to encourage fans to stay in their own homes to watch, rather than gather together in homes that have the channel.

Alternatively, the league could create a new schedule to minimize travel in the first few weeks, or pick and choose from the available matchdays to ease back into play.

The Bundesliga halted after 25 matchdays, meaning each of the 18 teams has nine games remaining. Bayern Munich currently holds a 4-point lead at the top of the table over Dortmund, with RB Leipzig one point further back in third place.

According to PointsBet, Bayern is the -500 favorite to win the Bundesliga this season, ahead of both Dortmund (+600) and Leipzig (+800).

While Germany approved the Bundesliga restart, safety questions remain. On Monday, testing of all 1,724 players in the top two divisions found that 10 were positive for COVID-19. Those individuals will stay in isolation until they are clear of the coronavirus. The league expects to use about 25,000 tests per week, testing all individuals involved in staging matches twice weekly.

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