The coming week will be a big week for the Premier League and Project Restart with club seeking to resume the season, continuing where they left off. However, it will not be the same as it was back in mid-March when the league was suspended with the rest of football around the world. Matches may be played in neutral venues for a start.
FIFA will sanction an increase from three to five substitutions per match, if the season is to resume according to the referees chief Nicola Rizzoli, who officiated the 2014 FIFA World Cup final. It was also revealed that the governing body will accommodate the requests of individual associations, which is a good sign of change.
The changes in substitutions would be because of the number of fixtures to be played in a short period of time, plus the temperature rise, with football normally being on a break at the time of year it is expected to resume – for some the height of summer. Rizzoli, speaking to Sky Italia, stated:
“I believe FIFA intend to allow five substitutions. In a phase of the season with many games one after the other and in elevated temperatures, we’ll have to all take a step forward to help everyone.”
There was even a suggestion that the Premier League could scrap relegation this season, which would be pointless as it will affect the top-flight for a period of time with only the champions and those who achieved European football, whether UEFA Champions League or UEFA Europa League, therefore degrading the competition.
It would be a shame for those at the top of the Championship, as presumably, no relegation would also mean no promotion. Why should the rubbish teams in the Premier League be rewarded and the good teams in the Championship be punished? The Football Association has stated that they would block any attempt of this.
EFL chief Rick Parry threatened legal action earlier this week if relegation from the Premier League and promotion from the Championship was scrapped. FA chairman Greg Clarke and his Wembley chiefs have the right to demand promotion and relegation remains in place. Parry, stated:
“We expect three Championship clubs to be promoted – the Premier League are aware of our position on that. The Premier League expects three clubs to be relegated.
“The lawyers are going to get wealthy if that happens. There would be a degree of outrage from a number of clubs in our Championship, and it would be a breach of the tripartite agreement.
“The safe answer is that it would get very messy. Our expectation is there would be three clubs promoted from the Championship.”
The Premier League has also been given the green light to scrap VAR as part of Project Restart. It is understood that the league are keen to keep using it and have factored in officials and operators with numbers being limited in the behind closed doors venues when the league resumes, if it is not blocked.
The scrapping of VAR is something that will be discussed during Monday’s meeting with the Premier League and officials from the 20 clubs in the league but there will not be a vote on whether VAR will be scrapped because of football lawmakers IFAB making an amendment to the rules because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lukas Brud, the secretary of IFAB, spoke about the rules being changed, mostly down to the number of substitutions in a match because of the season being played out in a much smaller space of time. There will obviously be different implications felt by different clubs around the world as football looks to come back from this virus. He said:
“As many countries begin to emerge from this situation, the focus is slowly turning to the resumption of football competitions that have been affected by the virus.
“When competitions resume, matches may be played in a condensed period (e.g. to reduce the impact on future competitions) and in different weather conditions, both of which could have an impact on player welfare.”
There are also fears that around 50 Premier League players will snub plans to restart the season, which will, in my opinion, make them look like the bad guys, also letting their clubs down. I understand that people are scared of this virus but these footballers are on way too much money for what they do and are happy to let the NHS, Police and Fire Brigades work, along with carers, bus drivers and shop workers.
It would seem that they want to keep the money coming in but not do anything for it. If they don’t want to play, when other industries are trying to get back up and running, they should not be paid. I am sure some will be upset with that opinion, that is your decision, but my point will remain. Footballers are not special and should not be multi-millionaires.
Brighton and Hove Albion chief executive Paul Barber, a club which has three players who have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, has stated that a nimbler of players have voiced concerns, including a player whose partner has a serious medical condition. He has been a voice of opposition about the restart of the league, saying:
“The players have a really reasonable and fair number of questions to ask about their own personal safety and that of their families. We as their employers have got to be able to answer those questions.
“We have a player whose partner has a serious medical condition – we need to understand if he doesn’t want to play or refuses to play where we stand on that. We also need to understand what the players’ feelings are on whatever protocol we agree.
“There are so many pieces of this jigsaw that are yet to really be put in front of us in order to form a complete picture that it is very difficult to answer that question.
“What we do know is we are going to face these situations. For our club, we’ve certainly got one already. We’ve also got players with young babies and players that live in close proximity to elderly parents. We’ve got all these issues.”
It is suggested that Monday marks the start of an eight day period that will shape the future of English football. Premier League clubs will discuss on Monday, the issues which need to be resolved before Project Restart actually happens. This will decide how match days will look, whether there is agreement on neutral venues, training and whether there will be an agreement on a way forward.
It is suggested that it would take 14 votes to push through Project Restart then go ahead could be given on Thursday with the Premier League meeting with the Government. The Bundesliga is due to resume this weekend with Premier League chiefs keeping a close eye on it, presumably hoping that all is well and the same thing can happen in England.
On Tuesday, clubs are due to debrief their players on safety issues with club captains and PFA reps speaking to executives and medics to try and reassure on the return to games. On Wednesday, there is a meeting between the Premier League, Professional Footballers’ Association and League Managers’ Association to gauge the mood among players and managers about a return.
Thursday will see the Government and police meet with Premier League and EFL to discuss Project Restart – they will be expected to nail down the neutral venue plan with the Government and the Police. The Premier League will need to convince the Government that it will work. The following Monday will be the biggest day of all, the day everyone votes to see whether Project Restart could happen, or be resigned in the bin.