Neil Humphreys: What the EPL can learn from the Bundesliga
German league's clear plan of action embarrasses English football
The Bundesliga is preparing to execute its post-lockdown plan, with matches set to resume on May 15.
The English Premier League does not even have a plan.
Instead, there is only a bold name and a handful of half-baked possibilities.
Project Restart could possibly kick off in June with games possibly behind closed doors, which could possibly be played at neutral venues with halves possibly shorter than 45 minutes.
Each possibility seems more ludicrous than the last, clarifying nothing beyond the existence of an EPL wall of silence that is slowly driving Gary Neville insane.
If ever the national game was a metaphor for its society, then it must be now.
In Germany, the Bundesliga expects a green light today to kick off again on May 15. In England, the EPL says little and procrastinates a lot.
If executives cannot speak, they can at least look to their German counterparts for a workable template.
The Bundesliga and the EPL appear to have mirrored the responses of their respective governments.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a trained scientist, ordered a swift lockdown and widespread testing. Their labs can now carry out 900,000 tests a week.
Despite a high number of infections, Germany kept its death toll below other major European nations.
But the UK now has the highest death toll in Europe.
Germany was more successful in slowing the virus' spread: i.e. every 100 carriers now infect only 74 others on average, which is way below the 100 mark where new restrictions must be imposed.
So the Germans can slowly open up, as long as major industries are ready to reciprocate. The Bundesliga is ready.
For several weeks, German teams have been stepping out at training grounds, quietly increasing fitness levels in anticipation of a possible return.
Sessions were limited to groups of five with no social contact. The routines were more Cirque du Soleil than Bayern Munich, with players running around the field without touching each other, as if staging an interpretive mime routine.
But the sessions formed just one aspect of the Bundesliga's 51-page reopening plan, which details the medical and biological controls expected at stadiums.
In a nutshell, venues will resemble the medical facilities in sci-fi movies.
The Bundesliga already anticipates games behind closed doors until at least next year.
But getting EPL officials to acknowledge that games might be without spectators is like extracting information from a double agent in a spy thriller. At this stage, they couldn't possibly confirm or deny such rumours.
Indeed, like the shadowy syndicate "Spectre", Project Restart has a name, but little else is known of its intentions.
As the drip-feeding continues, the latest ingenious scheme comes from PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor. He claims that halves of less than 45 minutes are being considered.
Why stop there? How about a five-a-side, with five minutes each half and no goalkeepers, just to keep things lively?
The UK has more pressing problems than a postponed league, obviously, but the EPL's only problem is the EPL and it seems reluctant - or unable - to propose a solution, not publicly anyway.
Unlike the Bundesliga, there is no plan of action. There is no collective agreement on training sessions or playing venues. There is no procedure in place to transform stadiums into sanitised bubbles.
There is nothing, beyond endless whining about lost TV revenue, footballers' contracts and having to pay non-playing staff.
Such concerns are hardly unique to the EPL.
Last month, the Bundesliga's chief executive, Christian Seifert estimated that an abandoned season would lead to losses of 750 million euros (S$1.15 billion). One in three clubs would be plunged into a financial crisis.
The Germans also know that the return is not without risk. Ten players and staff members from the top two tiers tested positive for Covid-19 and were immediately isolated.
But the risk remains and Germany must weigh the financial and psychological positives of a Bundesliga return against the negatives of a potential second wave. And they will.
Each step towards a football pitch has been carefully tested and evaluated in a long, evolving process. But, at the very least, there is a public process.
The Bundesliga's 12th man is transparency.
In contrast, the EPL feels like a cabal of paranoid, indecisive executives, terrified of poking their heads above the legal parapet. They continue to hide behind an empty name.
But there is no project in place. So there is little chance of a restart.