In preparation for the next Extraordinary Members Assembly (Thursday, September 3), the DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga has issued the 36 clubs in the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 with the medical and hygiene-related occupational health and safety concept developed by the DFL’s and DFB’s ‘Sports Medicine/Special Match Operations Task Force’ for the upcoming 2020-2021 season. This latest edition is a refinement of the original concept that formed the basis for special match operations following the interruption of the previous season due to the coronavirus outbreak. The concept focuses on the occupational health and safety of all persons involved in match operations (e.g. players, managers, coaches, media representatives, etc.) and, as such, should be viewed independently of the specific concepts developed by the individual clubs concerning the potential return of stadium spectators and related discussions.
The aim of the revisions undertaken by the task force, headed by Prof. Dr. Tim Meyer, was to incorporate the findings and experiences of a whole range of stakeholders as a basis for developing viable medium- and long-term guidelines and to ensure that the best-possible medical framework conditions are in place for the coming season. These guidelines are to apply for the DFL with respect to the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 and, for the DFB, to the DFB-Pokal, men’s 3. Liga and FLYERALARM Frauen-Bundesliga.
The concept takes into account the more specifically defined occupational health and safety requirements set out in the SARS-CoV-2 occupational safety regulations, issued by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.The statutory insurance association for occupational accidents, VBG, which is also responsible for football, considers the concept to be compliant with the SARS-CoV-2 occupational safety regulations. The clubs in the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 are responsible for implementing the occupational health and safety measures set out in the concept.
At the DFL Extraordinary Members Assembly, the clubs in the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 will vote on whether the revised concept should be included with the DFL’s rules of play and thus become fixed by statute. This requires a simple majority.
The concept still contains strict hygiene measures, regular tests, constant monitoring and specially-adapted match and training operations. Unlike earlier versions, this latest version divides pandemic activity into three levels, which dictate above all the organisation of match operations and the test scheme. The level depends on the number of new infections per week per 100,000 people in the clubs’ own and neighbouring districts, allowing processes to be adapted in response to local or regional infection rates. The thresholds are lower than those typically used for evaluating the general level of infection in Germany: the pandemic level ‘high’ applies from as few as 35 new infections; ‘medium’ between 5 and 35 new infections; and ‘low’ from fewer than 5 new infections – in each case, per week per 100,000 people.
This classification entails, among other things, changes with respect to the planning of staff requirements on match day in stadium zone 2 (‘special stands area’) and zone 3 (‘TV compound’) when the level of pandemic activity is ‘medium’ or ‘low’. The potential return of stadium spectators would affect the zones, which is why in some areas the clubs have to define the number of staff and, if necessary, ensure that this is compatible with the club-specific concept for the return of stadium spectators.
The test scheme, too, is based on the pandemic level. In the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2, it is planned that at least two tests per week will still be conducted when the infection rate is ‘high’ or ‘medium’, and at least one test when pandemic activity is ‘low’. When pandemic activity is ‘high’, the last test must be conducted at the earliest 36 hours before the next game kicks off; this interval can be increased to 52 hours when pandemic activity is ‘medium’ or ‘low’.
On the basis of experience from the previous season, the DFL is expecting to conduct 3,600 tests per week in the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 when pandemic activity is ‘high’ or ‘medium’. This equates to less than 0.3% of the weekly capacity of 1,267,655 tests that, according to the Robert Koch Institute, were available last week. This calculation is yet to take into account the fact that, according to the revised concept, pooled sample testing is a viable alternative when pandemic activity is ‘medium’ (although this approach must not be used for the final tests before match day) or ‘low’. Pooled sample testing allows multiple samples to be mixed and tested together to reduce the test capacities used. If a positive result is obtained, the individual original specimens are then retested individually to localise the source of infection. To secure specialist medical support, the DFL has concluded a cooperation agreement with a number of laboratory networks, all of whom are members of the German Accredited Laboratories in Medicine (‘Akkreditierte Labore in der Medizin’, ALM e.V.) association. They will support the implementation of the concept through a nationwide network of specialist medical laboratories.