Germany’s top two soccer divisions, 1. Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga have returned to practice, and the league’s chief executive, Christian Seifert said in a recent interview that the league is putting plans in place for games to return at all 36 stadiums by the beginning of May, albeit with no fans attending, according to the New York Times.
Teams have begun returning to practice, but some teams have not been cleared to return as the Covid-19 pandemic continues. The league might be pushing for a return in May, but if certain teams are unable to return to practice at the same pace as other teams, it raises issues of fairness between the clubs.
Germany has been one of the strongest countries in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. While it has the fifth highest number of recorded cases in the world, the Times is reporting the country has one of the lowest death rates in the world. Seifert said, “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 return of any team sport is going to require significant testing to ensure players and personnel are not infected. In the United States, the major sports leagues have pushed to return, but also have acknowledged a need for significant testing to ensure the virus does not spread among the players.
Even with that kind of testing, the potential for spread remains a concern, especially as the pandemic still has not come close to an end. Sports teams in Korea and Japan have tried to restart but it has been a start/stop process that does not bode well for sports around the world returning soon.
Whether or not it’s realistic for Bundesliga to return in May, Seifert did make two notable comments about the eventual return of soccer. The first was that soccer is likely to remain TV-only entertainment until the end of the year — meaning potentially no fans in the stadiums until 2021. Additionally, he thinks we could see the player transfer market collapse this year. That could dramatically impact teams that run business models geared around sizable returns from the transfer market.