(Updates with postponement of weekend games)
March 13 (Reuters) - Organisers of Germany’s Bundesliga called off all weekend matches on Friday and asked for the competition to be suspended until April due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The decision came after one match was postponed amid fears that fans would congregate outside the stadium and two second tier teams, Nuremberg and Hanover 96, were sent into quarantine after a player in each club tested positive.
The German Football League (DFL), which organises the top two tiers, said the “dynamics” of the day’s events had forced it to postpone the games. Before Friday’s decision, matches had been expected to go ahead without any spectators in attendance.
The games included the Ruhr derby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04.
“During the course of the day, suspicions of infection of coronavirus arose around several clubs and their teams and further infections cannot be ruled out,” it said.
The DFL said it would hold an assembly on Monday where it would recommend to its member clubs to suspend matches until April 2.
“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,” it added.
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, but tested negative. However, the club was still waiting for the results of tests on the players.
Earlier, Werder Bremen said their match against Bayer Leverkusen had been postponed on the orders of the city government, which feared fans would congregate outside the stadium as they did at several European matches played behind closed doors during the week.
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.
Bayern midfielder Thiago Alcantara had criticised the decision to carry on playing. “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 and said it was right to play at the weekend.
“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.” (Writing by Brian Homewood Editing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)