MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Each individual player’s behaviour will be “crucial until the end of the season”, the medical head of the Bundesliga and UEFA’s efforts to restart the game across the continent warned on Sunday.
Tim Meyer, the head of the Bundesliga’s new coronavirus task force and chairman of the UEFA medical committee, said that while the German league had produced the safest possible system for resuming competition, it was vital that players showed discipline and kept to the new rules.
The Bundesliga will become the first major league in Europe to resume action, on May 16, with games held without spectators and with strict restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Football has to give something back to the people now,” he told Reuters in an interview.
“That also means to be disciplined as a player. Keeping themselves away from the virus and the virus from them is the target. They need to be responsible.
“They are very public and need to show how to behave — on the pitch, play football as always but as soon as you leave the pitch, you are a citizen again and need to behave as a citizen in times of Corona,” he added.
Meyer said his task was to create the highest possible level of safety, based on what was “medically justifiable”.
“We do not think that any job, any profession in the country is 100% safe at this moment, as long as you deal with other human beings.
“Sometimes there are people who say, ‘there is still a little risk’. Yes there is. We will not be able to eliminate any small risk - we did a lot, we put a lot of measures in place, to make sure that infections from football are highly unlikely,” he said.
The Bundesliga has produced a detailed set of strict guidelines for the restart which include three separate zones at stadiums to limit human contact and reduce the chances of viral transmission along with a large scale testing procedure.
There will also be an impact for those living with players.
The co-habitants, wives or partners of all Bundesliga players will be required to choose from three options — either to undergo two tests, agree to document each contact outside the house or they have to live separately.
However, the decision on how to respond to any positive tests amongst players — and who in a squad might need to be quarantined as a result — will remain with the local health authorities in Germany.
That came into the spotlight on Saturday when Bundesliga 2 team Dynamo Dresden were told by their local health body to put the entire squad into 14 days quarantine after two of their players tested positive for the virus.
The decision means Dynamo will not be able to play their scheduled first game after the restart on May 17.
“We cannot change German law and German law says that in the case of, whoever is tested positive from the population, it is the local health authorities who take responsibility for the management of that case,” said Meyer who was speaking before the Dynamo news was announced.
“Usually, and this will be exactly the same with football, the affected person is put into quarantine and then the local health authority starts to check contact persons... fortunately in professional football we have footage of training sessions and each match,” he added, noting that tracking systems would be able to provide quick and detailed information.
Meyer has been in regular contact with medical staff at the Premier League and the English Football Association. He said the situations in the two countries were very different given the lower impact of the pandemic in Germany and in particular the higher capacity for testing for the virus.
Many of the Premier League’s evolving ‘Project Restart’ plans are similar to the Bundesliga’s approach and Meyer said it would be difficult to produce a more stringent system.
“You cannot easily be stricter than we are. You can put everyone into a complete quarantine, that is a scenario that has been debated in several countries,” he said.
“You can do that, but you need to be aware what you are doing then isolating a number of young men, completely, from the outside world for several weeks is not easy.
“We do not know how that would work, if it works at all, or what the consequences of it are not just on a medical but also a psychological level, we don’t know if it is feasible at all. Being stricter is difficult.”
(This story refiles to adds clarification interview undertaken before Dynamo Dresden announcement)
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Christian Radnedge