LIFE wasn’t supposed to be like this in Brexit Britain — waiting to follow the lead of German chancellor Angela Merkel.
Yet Premier League bosses breathed a heavy sigh of relief when news emerged that Germany’s premier had given the green light for the return of the Bundesliga this month.
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With mass gatherings still banned until October, the remainder of the season and the start of next will be played out behind closed doors — ‘ghost games’ as they are referred to in Germany.
Yet without such a resumption in the Bundesliga, English football would have given up the ghost on completing its 2019-20 campaign.
As one senior executive at a Premier League club said this week: “Without a successful return for the Bundesliga, Project Restart in England is doomed. It would be difficult to overstate how important this is for us.”
Bayern Munich and Germany keeper Manuel Neuer claimed: “The eyes of Europe and all of the world will be on us.
“This is an enormous responsibility for us, which we must be aware of with every fibre.”
It it will not take many conscientious objectors among Premier League players to torpedo the whole project of a mid-June resumption.
Neuer was hardly overstating the levels of scrutiny on a German return, according to many sources in the English game.
It is not just Premier League club executives who are keen to see whether German football can resume safely but also many players.
While a quiet majority of footballers in the English leagues appear to want a return to action, there are a significant number with grave concerns about the safety of themselves and their families.
Many major stars — including Sergio Aguero and Wayne Rooney — have voiced these fears. And all will want to see evidence of another major European league returning to give them confidence that Project Restart is realistic.
Because it will not take a large number of conscientious objectors among Premier League players to torpedo the whole project of a mid-June resumption.
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As a nation, the Germans have dealt with the coronavirus crisis far more successfully than Britain — recording less than a quarter of the number of deaths from the disease.
So if the Germans were unable to stage top-flight games before the Uefa deadline of May 25 — when national associations must decide whether or not they will resume their domestic campaigns — then English football could have torn up its bold plans.
Testing for coronavirus was widespread in Germany from the early stages of the pandemic.
And when 1,724 tests were carried out on staff from the Bundesliga’s two divisions, TEN proved positive.
While those ten cases were still troubling, it was considered a remarkably low number by the game’s authorities. And this aided Merkel’s decision to rubber-stamp football’s return after a meeting with federal leaders yesterday.
There is still no concrete restart date — with most clubs favouring May 15 but Werder Bremen and Mainz wanting a further week’s delay.
A May 22 restart in Germany would be extremely close to Uefa’s deadline — so any further delays could kill off plans for an English restart.
But there has been a sense of unity within German football about the desire to resume the campaign, which has not yet been matched in the Premier League.
Doctors from four English top-flight clubs have emailed the league, demanding answers to 100 questions about the restart — asking ‘how can we approve guidelines which still carry risk of death?’
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And the issue of the league’s 92 remaining fixtures all being played out in neutral stadiums also remains highly contentious.
Richard Bevan, chief executive of the LMA managers’ union, yesterday claimed the Premier League is likely to be cancelled unless 14 of the 20 clubs vote through the neutral venues.
Brighton have spoken out against this proposal and have support from the rest of the bottom six clubs.
They are adamant that neutral venues would lead to added health and public-order risks and impact on the ‘integrity’ of the competition.
In Germany, there will be no neutral venues — leaders Bayern Munich will play home fixtures in an empty Allianz Arena. Borussia Dortmund will play to cardboard cut-outs on the famous ‘Yellow Wall’ at their Westfalenstadion.
Should fans congregate outside stadiums in large numbers during ‘ghost games’, the German authorities say these matches will be ‘aborted’.
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Brighton and their allies cannot comprehend why the Premier League doesn’t take a similar approach — rather than opting for the extra complications of neutral venues.
But at least competitive football now looks certain to resume in one major European league.
The return of the Bundesliga will not guarantee a Premier League restart but, without it, there would have been no genuine chance.