German football targets May 9 restart but needs political green light

Bayern Munich and Hoffenheim could be back in action in May

German league football is prepared to resume without spectators on May 9, making it the first major European league back in action, but the final go-ahead rests with political leaders, its chief executive said Thursday.

Following a meeting with Germany’s top clubs, Christian Seifert said the league, suspended since March 13 because of the coronavorus pandemic, is “ready” to return next month.

Seifert stressed though that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government and state leaders will make the final decision. They are due to meet next Thursday.

“It is solely down to what the political leaders decide,” Seifert said in a video press conference.

“The Bundesliga is ready — regardless of whether it can continue on 9 May or at a later date.”

Germany has been less affected by the pandemic than other European countries, partly due to mass testing.

But the move to allow players to resume competition is being treated with caution and Seifert stressed that hygiene precautions would have to be strictly observed.

The players must be tested regularly, given an 11-point code of conduct and hygiene officers would be appointed to each team to ensure the guidelines are adhered to.

– ‘Keep your distance’ –Christian Seifert, Chief Executive Officer of the German Football League (DFL), said Thursday that the league is ready to resume on May 9.

“Games without spectators are not what we want, but they seem to be the only feasible way,” said Seifert.

“We try to take the best possible precautions through certain measures.”

The Bundesliga CEO said only around 200 people will be allowed in the stadium for each game, including players, coaches, officials and media. Social distancing will be observed off the pitch.

“When 200 people are in the stadium, where 70,000 people are normally expected, it’s easy to keep your distance,” said Seifert.

The leaders of the powerful states of Bavaria — home to reigning German champions Bayern Munich — and the football hotbed state of North-Rhine Westphalia have backed football’s resuming.

Bavaria state leader Markus Soeder has made it clear that football will not be given a “blank cheque” to continue at a time of competing funding priorities, and the situation will be constantly reviewed.

On Thursday, Soeder said the Robert Koch Institute, which advises Merkel’s government on the virus, will have a crucial say on “whether the concept is good or not”.Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena

It is hoped that the league season will finish by June 30, which would free up around 300 million euros ($323 million) in television money, an essential boost for several cash-strapped clubs.

However, any cases of players testing positive for the virus could abruptly end the season.

“If a test result is positive, it will be reported to the health department,” said Dr. Tim Meyer, the national team’s doctor who is advising the league.

“They will then decide whether quarantine is necessary. If it is, it would mean the end of the season.”

Germany’s top scientists and numerous health experts are already sceptical about the testing of footballers in the midst of the pandemic.

One sticking point is how many tests — of players and backroom staff — would be needed to complete the season, but Seifert played down the numbers.

“According to the Robert Koch Institute, the volume of test capacities is 818,000 per week (in Germany,” said Seifert.

“Professional soccer wouldn’t use even 0.4 percent of that.”

– ‘Follow the rules’ –

There are still further hurdles the German Football League (DFL) needs to clear.

Germany’s police union has warned they expect locked-out fans to congregate outside stadiums on match days despite a nationwide ban on public gatherings.

Even some fans’ groups are critical of a restart, accusing the league and Germany’s clubs of being motivated by money.

Werder Bremen’s sporting director Frank Baumann said he had reservations about the season resuming.

“I’m sceptical about Bundesliga games taking place on May 9. We need to see what is decided by the government on April 30. We don’t even know when we are allowed full team training again,” he said on the club’s Twitter feed.

Bayern Munich forward Thomas Mueller, whose club were four points clear at the top of the table when games were suspended, says the rules must be followed if the season is to be completed.

“As long as the rules (for the restart) are compatible with the laws and regulations, we will play, even if we have to be in quarantine,” Mueller told Sport Bild magazine.

“It is quite clear that football would follow the rules.”

Zoom vs. Microsoft Teams: Choose the best video chat app for working from home

Microsoft’s illustration for its Teams login page.Screenshot by Lynn La/CNETIn the wake of coronavirus outbreak quarantines, lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders, use of video chats apps and services has surged. Many people are now working from home, and in-person visits have gone digital. 

While there are many options available, whether you’re looking for a way to spend a virtual happy hour or host a brainstorming session with coworkers, two popular choices are Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Here’s how the two video chat and conferencing apps compare — especially in light of Zoom’s recent security and privacy issues. Microsoft TeamsBest for Office 365 users

Microsoft

If your workplace uses Office 365, you already have access to Microsoft Teams — a platform for chat, video conferencing and audio calls. The workplace communication hub integrates with Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other Office apps for seamless presenting and file sharing. The app has a similar feel to Slack — you can talk to team members privately or in specific channels, and you can call attention to the whole group or just an individual with the mention feature. 

You can video chat with up to 250 people at once with Teams, or present live to up to 10,000 people. Share meeting agendas prior to a conference, invite external guests to join a meeting, and access past meeting recordings and notes. Meetings can be scheduled in the Teams app or through Outlook.

Read more: How to get Microsoft Office 365 for free

As more people began to rely on video conferencing amid the pandemic, Microsoft posted a blog about its security practices, and the company regularly posts in a Transparency Hub. Microsoft said it doesn’t use your Teams data to provide ads, it doesn’t track participant attention, and it deletes all your data after your subscription ends — making a pretty clear effort to differentiate itself from Zoom and its many privacy and security concerns.

Teams is included with your Office 365 subscription, but you can also download a free version. In March, Microsoft lifted limitations on the free version so businesses and schools can use it even without a traditional subscription. The company is also offering a six-month free trial of Office 365 E1, Microsoft’s enterprise software suite, for businesses that aren’t already licensed for Teams. Office 365 business plans that include Teams start at $5/user/month. SEE AT MICROSOFT

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Zoom video conference app works for Android, iOS, PC and Mac. The app offers a basic free plan that hosts up to 100 participants. There are also options for small and medium business teams ($15-$20 a month per host) and large enterprises for $20 a month per host with a 50-host minimum. You can adjust meeting times, and select multiple hosts. Up to 1,000 users can participate in a single Zoom video call, and 49 videos can appear on the screen at once.

The app has HD video and audio capabilities, collaboration tools like simultaneous screen-sharing and co-annotation, and the ability to record meetings and generate transcripts. Outlook, Gmail and iCal support scheduling and starting meetings. In Gmail, for example, just click the calendar icon, then click the time of your meeting, then click the link under Join Zoom Meeting. If the host scheduled it, there might also be call-in options. 

If your mic and camera are off, Zoom has the option to communicate via chat (the interface looks a bit like Slack). This feature can also be helpful if it’s a massive all-hands meeting and the opportunity for questions is available. 

It’s free to sign up with Zoom — you can either manually create an account with an email or sign in with Google or Facebook. 

If you use Zoom, it’s important to take into consideration the security issues that have come to light since its rapid rise in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic. Privacy experts have expressed concerns over the video-conferencing software’s privacy risks and hacking vulnerabilities, as well as zoombombing (where uninvited attendees break into and disrupt meetings). The New York City Department of Education recently told teachers to stop using Zoom in favor of Microsoft Teams while security threats are addressed by the company. 

However, if you’re still using the platform, there are some steps you can take to protect your meetings, like using a per-meeting ID and enabling the “Waiting Room” feature so you can see who is attempting to join a meeting before allowing access