Premier League clubs agree on match day rules; dialogue opened with Government about fans returning

Premier League clubs have agreed on the new matchday rules ahead of the season resuming on Wednesday 17 June 2020. The new plans will allow up to 300 people in each stadium, which is important in the time of social distancing to avert the coronavirus, which is still out there and infecting people. Many will wonder why the season is resuming.

However, other industries have started to return to work, football is an industry after all. The NHS have been risking their lives throughout. Anyway, in addition to people control in each stadium, each team with be given 37 Red Zone passes, of which 20 will be given to players, 12 for coaching and medical staff and five more for other people.

Green and Amber zones will be used for the remaining 226 people, which could even see scouts returning to the game, ahead of the summer transfer window opening, which will be delayed this season, like everything else. Club representatives, a referee, two linesmen and a fourth official will be in attendance also.

VAR will continue with officials at Stockley Park, being spread across a number of rooms to maintain social distancing. The television broadcasters, such as Sky and BT Sport will have up to 98 staff in the ground, in addition to a maximum of 25 written journalists and 15 radio broadcasters.

There will be a minutes silence for the NHS and the victims of the coronavirus pandemic before the first matches to be played, with Aston Villa versus Sheffield United and Manchester City versus Arsenal to be played on Wednesday evening. United will return to action on Friday against Tottenham Hotspur at the clubs new stadium.

The away team will walk out onto the pitch first, followed by the home team, then the match officials. If there is a way to use two tunnels for this, it could be implemented. Benches will be extended, like those in the Bundesliga with player respecting social distancing regulations. There will be a 15 minute team talk in the dressing room.

The Premier League has also opened dialogue with the Government regarding supporters in the stadium. It is likely that the remainder of the season will be played behind closed doors, however, in Spain with La Liga returning to action on Thursday evening, there is a play to allow 10-15% of supporters into stadiums before the end of the season.

There could be a chance that the Government will agree to something like what La Liga hope to implement, but it will need to be closely monitored and only something that happens if the coronavirus pandemic stops spreading the way it has done, which is something that is happening, with things slowly getting better.

However, even if supporters are left out of stadiums for the remainder of the season, the mere thought of this happening would suggest that the supporters might not be left out for the entirety of the 2020/21 season, which will probably start just weeks after the current season has been completed, with the UEFA competitions played in August, apparently.

Premier League to resume from the 17 June; Manchester United back in action days later

The Premier League will return from Wednesday 17 June 2020, three months after the league was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Bundesliga has already returned with all teams playing three matches so far and La Liga in Spain is due to return on the 8 June. It will be good to see live English football once more.

At the time football was suspended, there were 92 matches remaining of the season, including two matches that were postponed for different reasons. These two matches will be played on the 17 June; Manchester United versus Arsenal and Aston Villa versus Sheffield United. The following weekend will see all teams return to action.

It is expected that matches will be played in the sequence they would have been played if the season had not been suspended, other than matches in the Emirates FA Cup, the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League, which is still awaiting confirmation on what will happen with the cup competitions.

United’s first match back will be against Tottenham Hotspur. It is not yet known whether the behind closed doors matches will be played at neutral venues or in the clubs home stadiums, as they would have been played before the coronavirus pandemic hit the country and the rest of the world. I presume that will be made know at a later date.

There is currently an ongoing meeting between the Premier League and all clubs, which is expected to ratify everything involved, however, it has been suggested that the return of the league on the date mentioned involved a majority of clubs involved in the league. It has been suggested that Friday night football could be reserved for EFL matches.

However, United versus Spurs could be played on Friday 19 June, which is a match that has long been awaited and will be much different considering the players, from both teams, who were injured and out of the fixture on the original date, now being fit and eligible to play. It will surely be a good match of football with both teams needing a win.

The television rights will be something that will need to be ratified too, with 47 of the remaining 92 matches originally due to be aired on Sky Sports and BT Sport, with 45 matches to be split between Sky (32), BT (eight) then the remaining five between Amazon and possibly a free-to-air channel, such as the BBC.

Players in the league have been tested in recent weeks, before the return to training. In the latest round of testing, which included 1,008 players, staff and personnel – four positive results were found. In total, over the three rounds of testing, 2,700 tests have been done with a 0.004% ratio of positive tests. The Premier League said in a statement:

“Premier League shareholders today voted unanimously to resume contact training, marking another step towards restarting the Premier League season, when safe to do so.

“Squads are now able to train as a group and engage in tackling while minimising any unnecessary close contact.

“The Premier League’s priority is the health and wellbeing of all participants.

“Strict medical protocols are in place to ensure the training ground is the safest environment possible and players and staff will continue to be tested for Covid-19 twice a week.

“Stage Two of the Return to Training protocol has been agreed following consultation with clubs, players, managers, the PFA, LMA and the Government.

“Discussions are ongoing as work continues towards resuming the season, when conditions allow.”

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be looking forward to returning back to the dug out, guiding his team to glory this season. A place in the UEFA Champions League is still up for grabs with United sitting in fifth place in the league, and if Manchester City’s ban from Europe is upheld, could achieve that from where they are now.

However, Solskjaer will be seeking to see his side rise into the top four of the table. There is still a chance to qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League, however, that is expected to take place in August, at this moment in time, as a standalone tournament after the league season has been competed.

Solskjaer will be boosted with the return from injury of both Marcus Rashford, the clubs top scorer with 19 goals in all competitions this season, and Paul Pogba, the clubs record signing. It would be good to see what Pogba and January signing, Bruno Fernandes can do in United’s midfield, a lot of attention was paid to the duo training together.

Project Restart could see five matches broadcast live back-to-back on a Saturday and Sunday – reports

The Premier League will reportedly return with a television bonanza for armchair viewers, which ironically are the only viewers able to watch matches now. It has been reported that we could see five matches broadcast live on a Saturday with a further five on a Sunday with kickoffs at noon, 2pm, 4pm, 6pm and 8pm each day.

The Premier League are looking to get the majority of the 92 remaining matches of the season to be played predominantly on a weekend to complete the season, seeing it finish in August. There is also pressure from broadcasters to show midweek matches, similar to the UEFA Champions League format – showing at 6pm and 8pm.

There will be a meeting on Thursday this week in which the fixture list will be discussed as the powers that be want to find parity in finishing the season quickly whilst not making the future list too crowded for all clubs involved. It would seem that this could be the right thing to be doing. It would be good to be able to watch each and every match.

Spreading out the fixture list with matches each weekend would give players enough time to recover but would prolong the season’s completion, adding midweek matches would shorten the process. It is not yet know what is going to happen with the Emirates FA Cup, the Champions League and the Europa League.

It is stated that Premier League clubs are keep to comply with the broadcasters demands as collectively, they face the prospect of paying £340 million back regarding television rights, which could jump to a whopping £762 million if the season culminates with the remaining matches not being played, which will mean massive losses for some.

It has been stated that the Premier League has a ‘strategy for rebate minimisation’ on Thursday’s agenda, which means they will try to keep the live broadcast rights holders – Sky, BT Sport and Amazon happy. Government officials have suggested that some of the remaining matches should be broadcast on free-to-air.

However, Sky and BT Sports will not be too happy with the likes of the BBC getting live football out of the deal for nothing, which would, in effect, go against the deal the two companies have with the Premier League. Both BT and Sky will have 47 of the remaining 92 matches with the other 45 split with sky getting 32, BT getting eight and Amazon and the BBC possible getting five.

Sky and BT will be hoping that subscribers that paused their subscriptions because of the suspension of world football, will unpause them to continue watching the action. The Football Association will have to factor in the resumption of the FA Cup with most matches played behind closed doors at Wembley.

The ban on live football to be televised between 3pm and 5.15pm on a Saturday has temporarily been lifted, which could, in my opinion, be the makeweight in that ban being lifted permanently. If football was available to be broadcast live on television platforms in the UK, like it is abroad, illegal avenues would not be needed.

Premier League clubs agree to stage one of Project Restart; small group training starts tomorrow

Premier League clubs have unanimously agreed to stage one of Project Restart in Monday’s meeting, which involved representatives from all 20 clubs in the league. Players will resume training from Tuesday, in small groups with football pencilled in to return on Friday 19 June 2020, at eat earliest. The first major step in the return of football in England.

Players will be allowed to train together in groups of no more than five as clubs look to build upon their fitness ahead of Project Restart actually taking off. It is clear that Premier League clubs actually want the season to be completed, rather than cancelled like the Scottish Premiership, making Celtic champions for the ninth time in a row.

The training will maintain social distancing with contact training not yet permitted. It is clear the league and the clubs want to maintain safety, carefully watching what is happening all of the time. The Bundesliga resumed their season this weekend with eight matches being played over Saturday and Sunday with another match this evening.

The plans may be in the early stages of the restart and in upcoming meetings, clubs will be required to vote on many different aspects of the season resuming, including playing matches at home stadiums, rather than neutral venues, as has been part of the plan for a number of weeks now. Obviously, taking things slow is the method here.

The first stage of Project Restart was agreed in consultation with players, managers, Premier League club doctors, independent experts and the Government. Strict medical protocols will be enforced in training, ensuring that the environment is safe and every player involved is doing what they need to be doing. A semi return to normality, it would seem.

The Premier League will concentrate on the health and well-being of all participants with the return to training being a step-by-step process. There will be full consultation with players, managers, clubs, the PFA and the LMA to find a way for clubs to apply full-contact training, which will be needed before the league resumes, which is long-awaited by many.

When the Premier League does return, many of the matches will be broadcast on Sky Sports and BT Sport, with Amazon possibly being involved in others and more on free-to-air platforms, such as the BBC. It has been reported that both Sky and BT will be seeking to add cameras to dressing rooms and microphones in technical areas.

We have seen from the Bundesliga’s return that football without fans is something that is not quite right but also something that is going to be the new normal for a period of time. Hearing the players, coaches and managers shouting and the rattle of the netting when a goal has been scored is something that you only hear in youth matches normally.

It has become the new normal also. This increased access could reduce the sum of money clubs would have to pay back as part of TV rights, giving supporters, journalists and pundits more access to what goes on behind the scenes. There could even be camera in the tunnel at grounds and interviews with managers and/or players at half time.

The Premier League can return in June, says the Government whilst medical chief issues warning

The Premier League and the English Football League have both been given the green light to resume in June. Football was suspended mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world, suspending football all over the world. The Bundesliga is due to resume this weekend in Germany, prompting other country to resume too.

Both the Premier League and the EFL have also been told to thrash out deals with television companies to ensure that there are free to air matches when the competitions kick off again. This has been the most political approval of football to resume against with Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden declaring:

“The Government is opening the door for competitive football to return safely in June.

“This should include widening access for fans to view live coverage and ensure finances from the game’s resumption supports the wider football family.”

Dowden hosted a video meeting with the chief executives of the Premier League, the EFL and Football Association on Thursday, sending them away to finalise preparations for a return to action next month. Dominic Raab previously said that he would like to see the return of football as a boost to the nation. It would be good to see it return again. Dowden said:

“It is now up to the football authorities to agree and finalise the detail of their plans.

“There is combined goodwill to achieve this for their fans, the football community and the nation as a whole.

“The Government and our medical experts will continue to offer guidance and support to the game ahead of any final decision which would put these plans into action.”

It is suggested that ministers feel that both Sky and BT, who currently hold the right to Premier League and EFL football this season, should come up with a scheme that will see a share of matches played being made available to those that are not current subscribers to the channels that air live club football matches.

With the Government clearly behind the return of football and police chiefs seemingly softening their stance on the neutral venues plan, the only major hurdle would be reluctance from players to return to action this season. However, Dowden has tried to reassure players with a further comment, saying:

“We all agreed that we will only go ahead if it is safe to do so and the health and welfare of players, coaches and staff comes first.”

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Prof Jonathan Van-Tam has suggested that the Premier League be ‘slow and measured’ in their plans to resume the 2019/20 season next month as there are fears that the process is being rushed, which could endanger more lives. Social distancing will remain a priority. Professor Van-Tam, answering a question, said:

“As you know, the overall approach with easing social distancing has been one that has been tentative, measured, slow and step-wise.

“And that is exactly the plan that is underway for all of elite sports, not just football.

“There will be small, carefully measured step-wise approaches to seeing what can be achieved safely.

“The first of those is really to return to safe training while still observing social distancing.

“And measures are taking place and plans are taking place at quite some depth to be ready to do that. That will be a step-wise thing.

“We will have to see how that goes before it is time to move on or even think about moving on to the return of competitive football matches as you have outlined your question.

We have to be slow and measured.”

It will certainly have to be carefully planned, but saying that, lots of people will be expected to start heading back to work after some lockdown restrictions were relaxed with many industries resuming. Those that feel footballers should be protected might do well thinking about everyone else who is back at work or who has worked through this whole pandemic.

Police chief ends hopes of Premier League bid to play matches at home – reports

Earlier on Wednesday, it was reported that South Yorkshire Police Deputy Chief Constable, Mark Roberts has suggested that Premier League club could play matches in their home stadiums, instead of playing in eight to ten neutral venues for the remainder of the season. It seemed like football had a chance of returning this season.

However, Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins, who would be in charge of policing at Old Trafford and the Etihad Stadium, has poured cold water on the bid to play matches at home stadiums for the remainder of the season. Hopkins suggested that fans could make their way to stadiums, which would be a safety issue.

Manchester’s top policeman even suggested that playing inn neutral venues is something he is not convinced by, which asks questions as to whether the remainder of the season could actually be played out. However, sooner or later football would need to return and these fears will always be there and would need to be solved.

Premier League bosses were apparently fighting an uphill battle to bring football back for the remainder of the season and now it seems a much more difficult task to overcome given the comments of Chief Constable Hopkins, which could seemingly end hope of football being played out for the remainder of the season and possibly the next season.

Hopkins obviously has some solid issues that could become a reality, which would cause safety issues with social distancing and the fact the lockdown in the country is not yet over and still looks a long way off. The Premier League would need to put something special in place for the police to allow this. Chief Constable Hopkins said;

“What we’re fearful of is that people will turn up, either at neutral or home grounds, which would be problematic.

“I have no doubt the [Manchester] City v Liverpool match will attract crowds, whether they’re allowed in the grounds or not.

“It needs very, very careful thinking through. We have to get to a point where it can be done safely.”

Clubs could ask supporters not to travel to stadiums, but there are sections of people in like that do not listen to anything and even the prospect of a deadly virus in the country does not seem to stop them from making silly decisions. There are apparently gatherings this weekend – protesting the lockdown. Forest Gump had more intelligence.

The Premier League seems to have received the backing of the Government for Project Restart, but the ultimate decision will be made by the respective ground safety authorities, in liaison with local police forces. Public safety will remain paramount. It might be that this stops football from restarting once again.

Police could be deployed outside stadiums, however, at this point in time, they have a lot to do without having a presence outside stadiums on match days. Stewards could disperse fans from gathering, but they don’t have applicable laws behind them to serve as a deterrent. There will need to be guarantees that there will be no strain on authorities.

I don’t know how those guarantees could be made. Private security maybe, but surely that will be a cost applied to each home stadium, meaning the clubs will have to pay and for that reason, with finances being hit already, it might be another spanner in the works. Those with this decision on their heads may have a tough few weeks ahead of them.

Premier League clubs fear worst with entire 2020/21 season played behind closed doors – reports

Premier League clubs are reportedly bracing themselves for the entire 2020/21 season to be played behind closed doors, which would be the worst case scenario. The Government has advised that crowds in football, other sports and other events may not be allowed until a vaccine for the coronavirus, COVID-19 has been found.

If this was to happen, it would be devastating for world football, presumably with the entire world following suit. Football without supporters in stadiums is something that cold ruin the game. It is suggested that clubs are getting ready for the worst case scenario, just in case it becomes a reality.

This would be disastrous for club finances as some rely on match day revenue, the selling to season tickets, match day programmes, club shop sales and television revenue, with only the latter likely to be available, however, that might also be affected with some matches likely to be free to air for the remainder of this season, if it goes ahead.

Television companies are already thinking about asking for a rebate from clubs with the 2019/20 season likely to be played behind closed doors, if it is actually played at all. Matches would apparently not be as exciting, which is the reason for a rebate as supporters may not watch the matches as they once would.

There is reportedly some hope that a vaccine could be found at some point in the next ten months, meaning that normality could start to return with people not having to be so cautious in their approaches to things outside their homes. Clubs seem to be making plans for football without fans, which for the EFL and lower league clubs being disastrous.

Clubs in League One and League Two would be paying massive amounts of money to play football with player’s wages, stewards, which would be needed to keep stadiums secure, and no income coming through the turnstiles. It could well be a real kick in the teeth for the game. However, not one club is responsible for this, which makes it more unfair.

The UEFA Nations League could be a problem too with home nations teams not getting any international football in this calendar year and with the fact that the UEFA European Championships has been delayed until the summer of 2021, it could have after effects which affect all countries in Europe, if not the world.

An international break is due on the 12 September but as the current Premier League season is no closer to finishing, and the dates for commencement of the new season as yet unknown, if the international break goes ahead, many clubs may choose not to release their players, of which they will have a right to do, considering the implications involved.

There is likely to be more problems with football unearthed before any plans are made to continue the season and actually see football on the pitches of stadiums again. This really is a problem that will be hard to solve. What used to be normal seems so distant now and something that we may never return to. Whilst people are dying, is football still fun?

Premier League clubs could be playing in their home grounds under Project Restart – reports

The Premier League are reportedly a step closer to allowing clubs to use their home grounds to play out the remainder of the 2019/20 season, which could recommence next month. It would seem that there has been a softening in stance of police chiefs after positive talks between senior football figures, government officials and the police.

Previously, the Premier League Project Restart has revolved around playing the remaining 92 matches in 8-10 neutral venues. A number of clubs had come out in opposition of this, which seemed to be a good decision at the time but in reflection, and the fact the Bundesliga was going ahead in all stadiums, needed to change.

It is being reported by The Mirror that the Government are now open to allowing Premier League clubs to play remaining games in their home stadiums, which is something they would agree to. A statement released Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, of South Yorkshire Police, on Tuesday outlined the view of the police, saying:

“Following a positive meeting between police, Government and football last night, we will be jointly exploring a range of options to identify a way forward, which minimises any risks to public safety and unnecessary pressure on public services, but facilitates a sensible restart to the season, to support the economic and morale benefits associated with the sport.”

It was previously suggested by DCC Roberts that there would be challenges in playing remaining fixtures at home stadiums, especially to the emergency services. The change in tone comes after Premier League clubs met on Monday, via video conferencing, confirming that they would rather player home games in their own stadiums.

There is seemingly opposition to this with London Mayor, Sadiq Khan talking about football returning to the capital. London is the hardest hit area of the country with the coronavirus at this moment in time which could mean there is more danger in the capital. In a statement from the Mayor’s office, Khan stated:

“With the country still in the grips of this crisis, and hundreds of people dying every day, he believes that it is too early to be discussing the resumption of the Premier League and top-flight sport in the capital.”

Currently, 32,692 people have died because of the coronavirus pandemic. These figures are based on the number of people who had died before Tuesday 12 May 2020. In London alone, 25,980 people have died which is 79% of the total of people who have died in the United Kingdom, so it could be that Project Restart is a little early but seems to be pressing on.

Further talks are planned for the resumption of the Premier League with the Government holding talks with the league on Thursday. There is expected to be a vote happening on Monday with all 20 clubs involved, which would then decide if Project Restart will commence or not. There are seemingly plans in place to curtail the season if this does not work.

It is a shame it has come to this. I am sure that if Liverpool are crowned as the Premier League champions with league positions taken into account at the time the league was suspended, clubs that miss out on their targets this season could seek to see if the curtailment of the season, if it comes to that, was lawful.

Some players in France seem to think that the Government suspending sporting events in France until at least September was too quick a decision to make with talks of legal action being mooted by clubs who have missed out because of their league positions at the time. I don’t think this is over, if the season is completed, normality might start to return.

Project Restart has been given a chance to succeed but there seems to be some that want it to fail

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.

Premier League club warned to back neutral venues or face season being cancelled – reports

The League Managers Association chief executive Richard Bevan has warned that the 2019/20 Premier League season could be cancelled if the club did not agree to playing in neutral stadiums for the remainder of the campaign. Top flight club have been reportedly told that this is the only way for all 92 remaining Premier League matches to be played.

Brighton and Hove Albion’s chief executive Paul Barber is one of the voices of opposition regarding finishing the season at neutral venues, which is something that I can understand but the coronavirus pandemic is not something that we have dealt with in our lifetimes. Bevan was asked if disagreement could end the season and he said:

“Yes, I think that probably is correct. The Government, if they haven’t already, will be making it clear that home matches with densely populated stadia really puts into question whether social distancing rules can be adhered to and without doubt that will be on the voting next Monday with the clubs.”

Bevan also insisted that there was no suggested that players or managers were being coerced into a Premier League restart and that the plans to ensure safety, which include the testing procedures for everyone involved would be outlined to players and managers next week. Obviously a lot of work has been put into this restart of the league.

It has also been reported that a small group of doctors had raised a number of concerns, including approving guidelines which will still carry the ‘threat of death, liability, testing and insurance, transmission of the virus via sweat and goalkeeper gloves, suspicions that some clubs are already ignoring guidelines, an increased risk to BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) employees, and the ability of emergency services to attend training ground incidents’. Bevan stated:

“Next week the medical and operational protocols are going to be presented to the managers and indeed the players.

“Hopefully there will be solutions that create this safe environment, in the meantime we’re staying very open-minded and as always the managers take their responsibility to the game very seriously on all these issues.”

Bevan than stated that he expected to ‘receive the protocols covering testing, tracking, personal protective equipment and guidelines of social distancing on Thursday ahead of the meeting next week’. A seven page document was drawn up by the Premier League’s director of football Richard Garlick which talks about players wearing masks or snoods at training – Brighton striker Glenn Murray branded this as farcical. Bevan stated that there was no coercion of players by managers.

“They’re the voice and leaders of clubs and teams but they always demonstrate calm leadership and that’s what we need.

“Whatever the pressures, physical, psychological well-being of players, coaches and indeed all the personnel, that will come first and foremost.”

It has also been reported that a number of things could be banned by the Premier League if and when the season resumes. In an exclusive by the Telegraph, Jason Burt reported that spitting, swapping shirts at the end of the matches, sharing water bottles and even team celebrations could be cancelled for the resumption of the league.

I can understand a number of these, being that we are in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, which so far has killed 30,076 people in the United Kingdom. With the likelihood of the virus being transferred by the sweat from the shirts, spit from bottles and players coming into close contact with one another, however, celebrations can be done differently.

This is going to create a new landscape for the world – the way in which we do things will have to change to overcome this virus. We have, in the past, done it before and will do it again. At this moment in time though, it seems really rushed to bring football back too soon with the pandemic raging on in the background. I guess we shall see what happens.

copyright: JW