Berlin plans to allow Germany’s Bundesliga to restart in May after weeks of shutdown imposed to control the spread of the coronavirus, according to a draft agreement between Chancellor Angela Merkel and state premiers seen by AFP.
The politicians believe restarting play in the first and second divisions to “limit the economic damage” for the 36 clubs is “acceptable” and will set a date for the games to begin in a telephone conference later Wednesday, the document showed, with German media reporting May 21 was a possible candidate.
The German league (DFL), its FA and several regional governments have backed the top two divisions to start playing fixtures again as early as May 15.
They hope to enlist the major broadcast rights-holders, Germany’s Sky and DAZN, in support, with an undertaking to make matches available to all fans, whether or not they subscribe to the pay-channels. A clear condition of the Bundesliga – as for elite football in most of Europe’s major leagues – returning to action will be that stadiums are empty of fans, in order to prevent possible mass infection and maintain social distancing practices that have helped combat the spread of the virus.
Making matches widely available on television would persuade public health authorities that supporters will not gather in large groups at homes where there is a Sky or DAZN subscriber, in order to watch. Such gatherings would be considered a grave risk to public health.
The broadcasters are under political pressure, too, because of the concerns that restricted access to coverage of matches could lead to private, crowded showings of games, and because of television’s position as the main economic driver of the sport.
Part of the clubs’ determination to finish the 2019-20 league season, which was suspended in March with 90 matches still to play, is financial.
If the season is not completed, a portion of the income banked from lucrative broadcast-rights deals will have to be refunded, leaving many smaller clubs vulnerable.
The current domestic broadcasting deal, which covers the first and second tier of the Bundesliga, is worth close to €1.2 billion a year.