Premier League progress, but where do we stand now?
PUBLISHED: 09:00 12 May 2020 | UPDATED: 10:27 12 May 2020
Football has been given the go-ahead to potentially resume after June 1 – but there are still many questions remaining, says Chris Lakey, as the Premier League suspension continues for a ninth week.
Top-level sport in England has been given a date for a restart – but fans will have to stay away until a vaccine is found to combat Covid-19.
While every sport, without exception, has been affected by the pandemic, it is football, and the Premier League in particular, which has commanded most attention – because of its popularity and because of the huge amount of money involved.
In the government’s guidance document, the aim is to introduce step two of its road map for exiting lockdown on June 1, but only if sufficient progress is made in “successfully controlling the spread of the virus”. Step two includes “permitting cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact”.
“For broadcast” are key words. But what are the nuts and bolts of where we are today...?
Is there a timetable?
Projected kick-off time is June 12 for the Premier League. The intention is to finish the football calendar by the end of July. A date of May 18 has been pencilled in to resume training (the same day the Premier League shareholders meet again). England’s top division and other leagues around Europe have until May 25 to outline to Uefa their detailed plans to start football matches again. As for the rest of football in England, who knows... but it isn’t looking good, with even the behind closed doors option unlikely.
Neutral venues seemed likely but it appears that may have changed. Some clubs said moving the goalposts and making them play out the season under a different scenario wasn’t fair. Now seems likely the Premier League, under pressure from around half the clubs, will ask the government if they can revert to usual home and away venues.
Football on TV
There are 92 Premier League matches unplayed – 200 if you include the Championship. If they go ahead it will be behind closed doors. It could mean victory for the couch potato fan – all matches could be played at different hours of the day with all of them shown on television (Sky, BT or Amazon) or online. That could be three or four matches a day – a side benefit could be it would keep fans indoors, rather than them gathering outside grounds. There has been talk of matches airing for free on Youtube, as 45 of the remaining Premier League fixtures are not scheduled to appear on Sky or BT Sport. The EFL’s streaming service iFollow will also be used.
What about players?
Players representatives and league officials are due to meet on Tuesday and Wednesday.
What about fans?
Fans won’t be at events for a while, obviously. The government plan says: “Some venues which are, by design, crowded and where it may prove difficult to enact distancing may still not be able to reopen safely at this point, or may be able to open safely only in part. In order to facilitate the fastest possible reopening of these types of higher risk businesses and public places, the government will carefully phase and pilot re-openings to test their ability to adopt the new Covid-19 secure guidelines.”
Leagues One and Two
If Rotherham chairman Tony Stewart is to be believed, it is a non-starter... literally. He expects a decision to be made by Thursday and says he would be “amazed” if they are not cancelled. If the campaign is scrapped the next major decision will be the ruling on promotion and relegation. Stewart, with acknowledged self-interest, says he thinks the current top three clubs should be promoted, which would see Coventry, the Millers and Oxford go up. His manager is Norfolk-born Paul Warne,
King’s Lynn Town
Because there is promotion and relegation between the National League and League Two there will be a knock-on effect to National League North, where Lynn occupy second spot. The National League board are awaiting the EFL decision before they can agree on their own solution.
The Bundesliga will become Europe’s first major football league to resume – this weekend. BT Sport has the UK broadcasting rights and they will be showing games – which ones hasn’t yet been confirmed.
What about other sports?
There will be no cricket played in England and Wales until at least July 1, following a decision by the England and Wales Cricket Board. British horse racing had hoped to resume behind closed doors later this month, having been on hold since March 17. Premiership Rugby is aiming for a resumption in early July, with nine rounds of matches remaining. Under proposed rules for boxing to resume behind closed doors in July, fighters on British shows will wear protective masks during ring walks and could be banned from using a spit bucket between rounds. Seems like the Department for Culture, Media & Sport will speak to the UK’s major sporting bodies today to go over the proposals for professional sport to resume from June 1.