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Coronavirus: Germany’s Bundesliga to resume this month, says Angela Merkel

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Bayern Munich lead the Bundesliga table by five points

Chancellor Angela Merkel has confirmed that the German Bundesliga season can resume this month.

It will become the first major league in Europe to return to competition, with a date for resumption to be confirmed by the German Football League (DFL) on Thursday.

All matches will be played behind closed doors.

With nine games remaining, Bayern Munich are top of the table, four points above Borussia Dortmund.

The announcement comes a day after clubs in the top two German divisions returned 10 positive results from 1,724 coronavirus tests.

The DFL had warned that many top-division teams would be in an “existence-threatening” financial position if play did not resume by June.

Players returned to training last month, with the DFL initially saying the league would be ready to return on 9 May.

Germany has banned large events with crowds until 24 October, so games will be behind closed doors, but the DFL has developed a health and safety plan that would see only about 300 people or near the pitch during matches, to minimise the risk of infection.

Analysis

John Bennett, BBC World Service

Over the years we’ve come to expect German football success on the pitch but this feels like a victory for their clear, detailed and, above all, collective planning off the pitch.

Back on 23 April, DFL president Christian Seifert revealed the league’s proposals for matches behind closed doors, collaborating with five laboratories and involving around 20,000 tests and it appears to have impressed the local and national government.

That’s despite some setbacks over the past week, such as Salomon Kalou’s social media video, which showed him flouting social distancing rules at Hertha Berlin, and the fact that 10 players or members of staff have tested positive for coronavirus.

The clubs have put a huge amount of work into this though and Bayer Leverkusen sporting director Simon Rolfes assured me this week that his players feel safe now that there is testing every three or four days and temperature checks every day as they arrive at the training centre.

They are certainly under pressure to make this work, with vital TV money at stake. One player told me he felt a duty to play again because in the Bundesliga clubs don’t have rich owners who can bail them out.

It will be interesting to see whether this news can give the Premier League, Serie A and La Liga extra impetus in their efforts to resume. One thing the German football authorities have demonstrated is that it needs to be a collective and unified effort from clubs, league and players.

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