Bundesliga celebrates its return with record viewing figures, never mind the social distancing

May 19 – The return of top-flight German football may have been generally regarded as a success in the wake of Covid-19 but players will be reminded to respect social distancing rules as a result of one incident that broke the rules in Hertha Berlin’s 3-0 win at Hoffenheim.

All teams were ordered to strictly avoid group celebrations but Hertha players were seen to hug as a group during the victory while defender Dedryck Boyata appeared to kiss his team-mate Marko Grujic, although he later said he was giving instructions about a set piece.

“In the hygiene concept the guideline is to celebrate within social distancing rules,” the German league’s International Chief Executive Robert Klein told reporters. “One can imagine at the height of a goal being scored that maybe, sometimes, the players get closer.

“The clubs are working actively with players. They speak to them every day to remind them of what needs to be done to ensure we earn the right to a second matchday and a third and to finish the season.”

Despite these concerns, Klein said he had not been informed of any groups of fans gathering in significant numbers at stadiums or city centres to watch matches, one of the key issues that has been highlighted in England for when the Premier League returns. There were also no cases of players catching the virus.

“It was a big sense of relief,” Klein said. “The fans understand the times we are living in are unusual. Sometimes these requests are difficult for them but everything has gone smoothly.”

A record six million viewers watched Sky Germany’s goals programme on Saturday. Precise international audience numbers will not be known until later this week but Klein noted “quite incredible” interest.

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