Football: German Bundesliga calls off weekend's games, proposes suspension till April 2

Entrance gates at the Allianz Arena, stadium of German Bundesliga side Bayern Munich, in Munich, Germany, on March 13, 2020.
Entrance gates at the Allianz Arena, stadium of German Bundesliga side Bayern Munich, in Munich, Germany, on March 13, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

(REUTERS) - Germany's Bundesliga became the last of the big five European football leagues to call off a slate of games amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The German Football League (DFL) cancelled all weekend matches in the top flight and second-tier Bundesliga 2 and recommended that both leagues be suspended until April 2, it said in a statement on Friday (March 13).

The decision was taken "in view of the dynamics of today's events with new coronavirus infections and corresponding suspected cases directly related to the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2," the statement said.

It said a general assembly would be held on Monday where it would recommend to the clubs the both leagues be put on hold until April 2.

It said in an earlier statement: "The goal is still to finish the season by the summer - from a sporting point of view, but especially because an early end to the season could have consequences that could threaten the existence of some clubs."

Monday's match between Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen, which was due to be played without spectators, was already called off over concerns that fans could congregate outside the stadium as they have done at several European games this week.

Eight matches are due to be played between Friday and Sunday, including the Ruhr derby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke.

Paderborn, who were due to visit Fortuna Duesseldorf on Friday, said that coach Stefan Baumgart had undergone a test for coronavirus after displaying symptoms of the disease.

"We are waiting for results over the course of the afternoon," the club said on Twitter.

Bremen said their match had been postponed on the orders of the city government. It quoted Bremen's mayor Andreas Bovenschulte as saying that "around 2,000 to 3,000 fans are expected to attend the match in front of the stadium", which would break a ban on gatherings of over 1,000 people.

The DFL appealed to fans not to gather outside stadiums at the other matches. The problem happened at a number of European club matches played behind closed doors this week, including Valencia, Paris Saint-Germain and Olympiakos.

Earlier, Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara criticised the decision to carry on playing at the weekend.

"This is crazy. Please stop fooling around and land on reality," he said on Twitter. "Let's be honest, there are much more important priorities than any sport."

His own chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge disagreed.

"At the end of the day, professional football is all about finances," he told reporters. "There is still a large payment due from TV broadcasters. If that payment were not forthcoming, many small and middle-sized clubs would have financial problems."