Germany’s Bundesliga can restart in second half of May: Merkel

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s Bundesliga can restart games from the second half of May following the coronavirus stoppage, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday.

Merkel’s announcement had been widely expected as part of measures to begin easing the country’s lockdown aimed at halting the spread of the virus.

Sources told Reuters that the government and federal states had also agreed that the second division, the 2. Bundesliga, could restart matches.

All matches would have to be played without fans, sources familiar with the talks told Reuters, adding that the German soccer league (DFL) will decide on the exact dates for the resumption of the Bundesliga and the second-tier 2. Bundesliga.

The league has been on hold since mid-March because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Officials from the 16 states held a teleconference with Merkel on Wednesday to discuss easing the country’s lockdown measures.

The DFL is due to hold an assembly with its 36 member clubs on Thursday followed by a news conference.

The Bundesliga will be the first of Europe’s top five domestic leagues to restart following the outbreak, which has brought football to a standstill around the world.

Its progress is likely to be closely watched by other leagues.

Germany’s professional teams have been training since mid-April, divided into small groups and under strict conditions, including extensive testing of all players and coaching staff.

On Monday, the DFL said it had registered 10 positive cases in a blanket test of 1,724 players and staff at its 36 first and second division clubs.

(Reporting by Holger Hansen; Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Hugh Lawson)