Bundesliga

The German Bundesliga is poised to become the first leading European football league to return to action amid COVID-19 after Chancellor Angela Merkel today (Wednesday) said it could resume in the second half of May.

The Bundesliga has been suspended since March 13 due to COVID-19, but the 2019-20 season is now set to conclude behind closed doors following approval at a meeting between the federal and state governments. The German Football League (DFL) is due to hold a general meeting tomorrow where the matter will be further discussed with the 36 clubs in the Bundesliga and 2.Bundesliga.

A position paper agreed on by Merkel (pictured) and the prime ministers of the 16 federal states no longer specifies the need for a quarantine period of two weeks, meaning the Bundesliga season, which still has nine rounds left to play, could resume on May 16-17.

In a statement, the federal government said the DFL will determine the specific match dates. It added: “A quarantine measure, possibly in the form of a training camp, must precede the start of games, as provided for in the tested concept.

“In the case of any necessary tests for game operations, it must be ensured that test requirements registered from the healthcare system are treated with priority at all times. The DFB (German Football Association) is asked to develop sustainable future concepts for the other leagues.”

The DFL last month announced that clubs were prepared to resume the 2019-20 season behind closed doors in May. At the time, the DFL said in-stadium personnel would be kept to a minimum in the event of a return to action. A maximum of 213 officials will be allowed in the stadium for Bundesliga matches, with another 109, including security staff, to be situated outside the stadium. Fans will not be able to gather outside the ground.

In the 2.Bundesliga, a maximum of 188 people will be allowed in the stadium and a maximum of 82 outside. Matches in both leagues would take place amid strict monitoring and COVID-19 testing.

French Open

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) has said it is in talks with the sport’s governing bodies amid reports the 2020 French Open at Roland Garros will see its dates moved again.

Back in March, the FFT said the modernisation of the Roland Garros site – which includes the installation of a roof on the main Court Philippe Chatrier – had enabled the grand slam event to be rescheduled to the autumn.

The competition is held in Paris each May, but the FFT initially announced new dates due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The 2020 competition is currently due to be held from September 20 to October 4, but these dates have been widely criticised as they clash with the hardcourt season.

Multiple reports suggest the tournament start date will now be shifted back a week to September 27, granting players a two-week window between the currently scheduled end of the US Open and the start of Roland Garros.

An FFT spokesman told the Reuters news agency: “We took the decision in mid-March to postpone Roland Garros from September 20 to October 4. Since then, we have been discussing with the international bodies of the various circuits (International Tennis Federation, WTA, ATP) the optimum calendar for the second part of the season, which will be finalised with the various stakeholders very soon.”

Super Lig & Champions League final

The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) has today announced that it plans to resume the suspended Super Lig on the weekend of June 12-14, and stage the 2020 UEFA Champions League final in Istanbul in August.

The Super Lig has been suspended since March 20 and was one of the last major European leagues to shutdown amid COVID-19. TFF president Nihat Ozdemir said he hopes to finish the season by July 26, with games played behind closed doors.

He added: “With this decision, we will apply to our Ministry of Health for the leagues to be played on the schedule we have determined. Our Ministry of Health will refer the matter to our Science Board, which has done valuable work so far.

“The Ministry of Health and the Scientific Committee will decide how, and under which conditions, the competitions will be played after their work together. In this process, we will inform all our clubs about the principles that will emerge at the end of the process, which includes the evaluations made by the Science Board together with our Health Board.”

This season’s Champions League final was due to have been played at Atatürk Olympic Stadium on May 30, but has been postponed on an indefinite basis by UEFA.

RFU, ECB & EFL

Senior executives from the Rugby Football Union (RFU), England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and English Football League (EFL) have spelled out that they face losing more than £700m (€802.2m/$866.6m) between them due to COVID-19.

The execs were appearing before a Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) select committee meeting, with RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney stating his organisation could lose £107m in the next year if Twickenham’s staging of England’s autumn internationals and Six Nations games were cancelled.

Stating that it could take the RFU four to six years to recover financially from the crisis, Sweeney said losses would be reduced to £85m if November’s games against New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga and Australia were played behind closed doors.

He said: “It’s a very significant loss of revenue and we’re doing what we can to mitigate it. If this was to be prolonged and move into next summer and the Six Nations games were impacted, then there would be a catastrophic impact on rugby union in England.”

The ECB last week confirmed that the launch of its flagship new competition, The Hundred, will take place in the summer of 2021 and not this year as originally planned. That came after it was decided that no professional cricket would be played until at least July 1.

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said English cricket could be hit with losses of up to £380m if no play takes place this summer. He added: “We’re still working on the impact of COVID-19 across the entire game, but we anticipate the cost of no cricket this year could be as bad as £380m across all of our professional clubs and the ECB. That’s the worst-case scenario.

“We’re staring at a £100m-plus loss this year whatever happens. We’re going to have to take a proper look at our cost base and cut our cloth accordingly. We have less revenue coming into the sport. This is the most significant financial challenge we’ve ever faced.”

The EFL, which operates the three leagues below the Premier League, said its 72 member clubs are facing significant financial challenges, with plans on the possible resumption of the 2019-20 season yet to be decided.

Chairman Rick Parry said: “There’s a need for a reset, it’s overdue and it’s necessary. We need a rescue package and to address the longer term otherwise we’ll be back facing problems in two to three years. We’re heading for a financial hole of £200m by the end of September. Clubs are stacking up creditors and there are many uncertainties.”

Image: Bundesregierung/Bergmann