Sport

‘No promises’ over coronavirus an infection possibility when Bundesliga returns, warns Watzke

Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke accepts there can be no guarantee players will not be at risk of coronavirus infection when the Bundesliga returns.

On Wednesday, German chancellor Angel Merkel gave the green light to the competition resuming this month, which would make it the first of Europe’s top-five leagues to return during the pandemic.

The Bundesliga was halted in March with nine rounds of matches left to play.

All large gatherings in Germany have been banned until August 31, meaning there is no possibility of opening up stadiums to supporters and games will be played behind closed doors.

The German Football League (DFL) is due to meet on Thursday, when it is expected to formalise its plans.

A resumption will mean games can be televised again, protecting vital streams of broadcast revenue.

Watzke claims it would have been impossible to wait until it was safe to allow fans back into grounds to watch matches due to the economic risk to clubs.

While he is pleased to be able to reward German citizens for their “discipline” by bringing back football, Watzke also admits there is an unavoidable element of risk to the teams involved, regardless of any stringent health and safety measures.

“We’re very pleased that the people in Germany – and, from a regional point of view, the people in Dortmund and the surrounding area – have conducted themselves so magnificently in recent weeks that the spread of the pandemic could at least be contained,” he said in a statement published on Dortmund’s website.

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“It is only thanks to the incredible discipline on the part of the population that we can now, gradually and in small steps, move on to another form of normality.

“Many industries are now slowly starting up again in compliance with strict rules, and this applies to professional football too. In this context, we at Borussia Dortmund are aware we have a great responsibility. We will – in the knowledge there can be no guarantees – do everything in our power to ensure the highest-possible degree of safety in order to prevent any new infections among the players and their families.

“Having to play behind closed doors is an enormous challenge, especially for a club like BVB, which draws a lot of strength from the passion of its supporters. However, it would not have been economically viable for the clubs to allow the Bundesliga to pause until spectators were allowed back into the stadiums.”

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