Coronavirus: Premier League clubs committed to completing season

Premier League

Finishing the season in a 40-day window was one of the scenarios discussed at a Premier League meeting on Friday.

Top-flight clubs remain committed to playing all 92 remaining fixtures this season but did not discuss a deadline by which action must resume.

Clubs were expected to debate a 30 June deadline to end the season but instead discussed “possible scheduling models”.

The Premier League said it “remains our objective” to complete matches but currently “all dates are tentative”.

The league has been suspended since 13 March because of coronavirus.

It is understood some clubs expected to discuss the proposed 30 June deadline at Friday’s meeting but it was decided this was not the right time to do so.

A Premier League spokesperson said “in common with other businesses and industries” clubs were “working through complex planning scenarios”.

“Today’s shareholders’ meeting provided an opportunity to discuss possible scheduling models,” it added.

“It remains our objective to complete the 2019-20 season but at this stage all dates are tentative while the impact of Covid-19 develops.”

Sixteen of the 20 Premier League teams have nine games to play, with four having 10 left.

Earlier this month the Premier League said play will only resume when “it is safe and appropriate to do so”. The number of coronavirus-related deaths in the UK has since risen to more than 12,000.

On Thursday, the government issued a further three-week lockdown to ensure social distancing and manage the spread of the virus.

BBC sports editor Dan Roan has learned Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden spoke to Premier League bosses this week and signalled the government was content for them to start contingency planning.

But nothing will be taken forward without the green light from the government, in accordance with medical advice.

In a section on player welfare at the meeting, it was decided tests for coronavirus would have to be widely available to the public before the widespread testing of players.

When and how football resumes has been widely debated across the sport as clubs face up to financial difficulties and the logistical issues caused by a late finish to the season.

The contracts of numerous players expire on 30 June, including those of Chelsea midfielder Willian and Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen.

If the season is extended beyond that date there is a possibility clubs will lose players before fixtures are concluded.

World governing body Fifa is aware of the problem and is looking at alternatives such as rolling contract extensions.

The 30 June date is also an issue for clubs around agreed changes in kit manufacturers. Liverpool are due to change shirt manufacturers from New Balance to Nike, while Watford and Newcastle are also set to use new suppliers.

In a BBC Sport vote on how the season should be dealt with 39% of respondents wanted to ‘declare the season null and void’, with 28% opting to ‘finish the season no matter how long it takes’.

Uefa has pleaded for leagues to give them time to return with their own proposals for ending the season across Europe.

European football’s governing body will meet next week to further discuss plans which include potentially using the Champions League final to end the 2019-20 season on 29 August.

Lower down the football pyramid in England, the EFL has sent a letter to clubs recommending they return to training on 16 May at the earliest.

The EFL has not discussed a league restart date with the government but told clubs: “Our planning needs to be agile enough to allow us to be as prepared as possible for a start at relatively short notice.”

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‘Eight weeks enough to complete season’

BBC Sport’s Simon Stone

In the end, the 30 June deadline demand some were so keen to push earlier in the week was never raised.

The feeling that today’s meeting was not the right time to widen the debate and the Premier League desire for a united front was strong enough to dissuade a discussion that would have extended the chat, which was wrapped up in under two hours.

Individual clubs will go away to continue discussions with players about wage cuts and deferrals and wait to see what comes out of two Uefa meetings next week.

Before their next scheduled meeting on 1 May, lessons should also be absorbed from Germany.

Some Bundesliga players have already returned to their clubs for training under social distancing rules – getting changed at home and returning to shower after picking up some food.

A Bundesliga meeting on Thursday will offer guidance on if and when this can be stepped up following the revised regulations announced by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday.

It will start to offer the Premier League some kind of clarity over the major discussions today, which centred around different start and end dates to play the remainder of the 2019-20 campaign.

At the moment, it is felt eight weeks will be enough from returning to training in order to regain match fitness and play nine rounds of games to complete the season.

Germany’s experience will help frame whether that prospect is a realistic one.

In the meantime, as has been the case since matches were first called off five weeks ago, the only certainty is uncertainty.

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What about other European leagues?

The body that represents Europe’s top leagues says when football does return it will “no doubt” be played behind closed doors.

At present, the state of play in the continent’s top leagues is:

Germany’s Bundesliga: Clubs have returned to training but the season is still suspended until 30 April.

Spain’s La Liga: There will be no training until emergency measures in place are lifted and La Liga president Javier Tebas says resuming play on 28 May is a best-case scenario.

France’s Ligue 1: French football authorities are considering restarting Ligue 1 on 3 or 17 June, with the latter date the more likely, according to sports daily L’Equipe.

Italy’s Serie A: The Italian Football Federation (IFF) hopes to begin testing players for the virus at the start of May, in preparation for the season to resume.

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BBC Sport – Sport

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