Germany warns soccer clubs at risk of collapse

DÜSSELDORF, Germany (AP) — German soccer is eyeing empty stadiums and a postponed European Championship to save clubs from financial collapse.

The CEO of the German league, Christian Seifert, said Monday a meeting of the 36 clubs from the top two divisions had agreed to an extended suspension through April 2, but “it doesn’t mean that we assume we can play from April 3.”

Separately, the German soccer federation said games in the top two women’s divisions and the women’s cup will be suspended through April 19.

Seifert warned that some men’s clubs face an existential threat from a prolonged break without games, risking “tens of thousands” of jobs at clubs, in the media and in hospitality.

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“The only chance in the near future” is to stage games without fans, Seifert said.

He added that he expected a UEFA meeting on Tuesday to make it possible for national leagues to plan club games for May or June. That would almost certainly require UEFA to postpone or cancel the European Championship, which is set to start on June 12.

“I assume that the national leagues will have more flexibility from tomorrow,” Seifert said.

The Bundesliga previously tried to host a full slate of games in empty stadiums last week. It called off that plan on Friday, the last of the big five European leagues to do so, in the face of opposition from German politicians and virus cases at clubs.

Hundreds of fans assembled outside the stadium for the only German game played without fans, Wednesday’s match between Borussia Mönchengladbach and Cologne, even though the aim was to stop large gatherings of people.

Paderborn player Luca Kilian has tested positive for the coronavirus. Three players in the second division also have the virus.

“In our view, the suspension of play … is without any alternative at the current time because it’s about protecting people’s health and life,” Heike Ullrich, the German soccer federation’s director for associations, clubs and leagues, said in a statement announcing the suspension of the women’s competitions.

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