Possible temporary homes for New York City FC

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After more than three years in the making, yesterday Major League Soccer announced that the 20th franchise will be called New York City FC. Yeah, it was kind of a big deal

However, this news has been coming for a while.

But in amongst all the excitement and rigmarole from Manchester City and the New York Yankees — who will be the owners of the the new franchise — one key factor has gone slightly missing.

Where will NYCFC play?

Yes, we all know about the MLS Stadium plans in Queens. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to give an update on that and more later today, so check back here for that. But NYCFC are expected to join MLS for the 2015 season, giving less than two years for a stadium to be constructed. That’s not possible.

Building a stadium in Flushing Meadows Park in Queens has hit a few snags, to say the least, in recent months. The New York Times’ George Vecsey discussed those issues superbly this morning. And in this very blog yesterday evening, Steve Davis brought up MLS Commissioner Don Garber’s comments about having “no plan B’ for anywhere other than Flushing Meadows Park for the new MLS franchise to be based.

So are there alternatives for an interim home for New York City FC in the New York metro area, while a new stadium is being built? You betcha.

Yankee Stadium

The most obvious choice right off the bat. The Yankees involvement in this deal my very well include their stadium as the temporary home for the first two or three seasons. On Saturday Manchester City will play Chelsea in a friendly and Yankee Stadium has hosted plenty of big friendlies between the top European sides in recent years. Was all that in preparation for an MLS franchise to play there for a few seasons? The one big thing is the turnover between baseball and soccer matches. With the seasons running at the same time, MLB and MLS will have to work together to schedule games accordingly. This could be a great opportunity to keep the club in New York City proper and snag some Yankee fans to NYCFC’s fanbase. Update: Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner on NYCFC at today’s press conference: “Well, tentatively we are working on them playing at Yankee Stadium.”

MetLife Stadium

Probably a complete no-no. But still, you never know. Massive stadium that would probably be a quarter full for MLS games, could NYCFC transform an NFL venue like Seattle does or maybe the ‘Caps who only use the lower bowl at BC Place? It could work. Big stumbling blocks include poor transports links out to the stadium and a lack of atmosphere being created. And oh yeah, the fact that Met Life is in New Jersey. That’s a biggie.

Red Bull Arena

Another non-starter perhaps. But look at how the Home Depot Center is shared by LA Galaxy and Chivas USA. It is possible. The Red Bulls are the new rivals for NYCFC but they could certainly help them out with a temporary home. It wouldn’t sit well with RBNY fans and sharing a stadium with your local rivals diminishes the rivalry, in some cases. But when you think about AS Roma and Lazio, it can work. But highly unlikely. Also, the New Jersey issue raises its ugly head once more.

Columbia University Stadium

Not many have mentioned this idea. But it could be one to think about. Columbia University’s football stadium is located in Manhattan is close to the 215th street stop on the subway and would be relatively cheap to upgrade and place temporary seats in. Like the Vancouver Whitecaps did at Empire Field for their inaugural MLS season, a temporary home with flexible seating arrangements can work for small periods of time. Columbia’s soccer stadium could also be redeveloped and is close by, but the capacity will be very small. Look no further than Buck Shaw Stadium, home of the San Jose Earthquakes, for proof that this is a viable option. Maybe.

Citi Field

This one is highly unlikely…but I’m going to throw it out there due to its proximity to the potential new home of NYCFC in Flushing. Just a stones throw away from the proposed new stadium plan MLS has been working on for over a year, the fanbase could grow in the local area while the tam plays at a temporary pitch at the New York Mets’ stadium. It wouldn’t be ideal, but like Yankee Stadium, Citi Field has hosted soccer games in the past.

(More: MLS may be backpedaling on Queens as NYC site)

Liverpool reverse furlough decision

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Liverpool have announced they will no longer seek financial help from the UK government to pay non-playing staff during the coronavirus pandemic with the furlough scheme.

Over the weekend Liverpool announced they would take advantage of the furlough scheme from the UK government, which will pay 80 percent of wages of any staff impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. Liverpool had announced that staff not needed over the next few weeks would be paid 80 percent of their wages by the UK government and they would make up the remaining 20 percent as part of the furlough scheme.

That decision by their billionaire American owners the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) enraged Liverpool’s fanbase.

Peter Moore, the chief executive officer of the runaway Premier League leaders, announced on Monday that the decision would be reversed after talks which included supporters groups, the Mayor of Liverpool and FSG.

“We believe we came to the wrong conclusion last week to announce that we intended to apply to the Coronavirus Retention Scheme and furlough staff due to the suspension of the Premier League football calendar, and are truly sorry for that,” Moore said. “Our intentions were, and still are, to ensure the entire workforce is given as much protection as possible from redundancy and/or loss of earnings during this unprecedented period. We are therefore committed to finding alternative ways to operate while there are no football matches being played that ensures we are not applying for the government relief scheme.”

Moore added that Liverpool will be financially impacted by this crisis and they are trying to find ways to offset the loss of revenue due to the season being suspended.

“But in the spirit of transparency we must also be clear, despite the fact we were in a healthy position prior to this crisis, our revenues have been shut off yet our outgoings remain. And like almost every sector of society, there is great uncertainty and concern over our present and future. Like any responsible employer concerned for its workers in the current situation, the club continues to prepare for a range of different scenarios, around when football can return to operating as it did before the pandemic. These scenarios range from best case to worst and everything in between,” Moore continued.

“It is an unavoidable truth that several of these scenarios involve a massive downturn in revenue, with correspondingly unprecedented operating losses. Having these vital financial resources so profoundly impacted would obviously negatively affect our ability to operate as we previously have. We are engaged in the process of exploring all avenues within our scope to limit the inevitable damage. We thank the many amazing people in our club, at all levels, who are committed to helping us do just that, despite the complexity and unpredictability in the world and our industry.”

The backlash against Liverpool’s decision follows plenty of criticism for Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur who did the same, as many leading voices believe that the billionaire owners of Premier League clubs should be paying their staff during this unprecedented pandemic instead of getting help from the government.

Many Liverpool’s fans and former players slammed the initial decision so it is good to those concerns have been addressed, as the Reds recorded a pre-tax profit of $51 million last year alone and $153 million profit the year before that.

VOTE: Premier League March Madness playoff final

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Our Premier League March Madness tournament began on Monday and we had some early drama in the relegation playoff semifinals.

The opening two games of our bracket produced two surprise winners, as #20 Norwich City edged out #17 Watford after winning 50.48 percent of the vote, while #19 Aston Villa comfortably beat #18 Bournemouth with 62.14 percent of votes.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub

That means Norwich will now face Aston Villa in the final, and Villa won both of their meetings in the Premier League this season. The first with a 5-1 win at Carrow Road, the second with a undeserved home win at Villa Park.

What do the winners get? If you win the relegation playoff final you are exempt from relegation and finish as the 2020 tournament as #17 seed, while the runner up will be relegated along with the two semifinal losers.

If you want to see the full game schedule, seedings and bracket, here is the post you need as the tournament will run all week long:

Monday: Relegation semifinals, final
Tuesday: Sweet 16
Wednesday: Elite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship game

Plus, our own Nick Mendola handicapped the field and here is who he thinks will be the favorites to win it all and which teams you should look out for as dark horses over the next few days. His predictions are wild and Arsenal fans will want to prove he is correct and they pick up a first piece of silverware under Mikel Arteta.

Okay, vote below (until 3 p.m. ET) for the two relegation playoff finalists as our Premier League March Madness tournament continues!

Report: Premier League prepares for June return

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The Premier League is reportedly preparing to return to action in June as the current season remains suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Multiple reports across the UK, including this one from the Daily Mirror, claim that the government has given the Premier League the green light to return to action from June, provided the situation has improved as expected by then.

Per the report, Premier League clubs have been told that they should prepare for games to be played from June 1 onwards behind closed doors and there is a ‘tentative agreement for the top flight to resume behind closed doors after the 20 clubs mapped out a plan with senior officials on a resumption of matches.’

The report adds that ‘in principle, with government health officials hopeful of a coronavirus peak in the UK in the next few weeks, they will sanction games under strict guidelines.’ 

Plans are in place for players to be isolated together and away from the public, as they could begin training in May so they can prepare for the current campaign resuming.

With the situation in the UK deteriorating over the last week and the country on lockdown, these tentative plans can of course change quickly.

Premier League players have had differing views on what should happen to the 2019-20 season and Luke Shaw is the latest to say games should not be played behind closed doors. But if teams play two games per week in empty stadiums or training grounds from June 1, there is the real possibility the season could be finished by the start of July and then FA Cup and Europe competitions could follow.

The overwhelming feeling from Premier League clubs, the league itself and many other individuals is that the 2019-20 season should be finished whenever it is safe to do so. Recent PL club meetings came to that agreement and that is the official stance.

However, the next big question is whether or not fans will be able to attend games for the rest of the season and this report seems to suggest that is totally off the table and if the current campaign is concluded, fans will not be present.

Luke Shaw: Scrap season and start again

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Man United and England defender Luke Shaw has said the 2019-20 season should be scrapped and started again if games cannot be completed.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Shaw, 24, was speaking during a FIFA 20 competition which was streamed on Twitch to raise funds for UNICEF’s Combat Corona campaign.

“Scrap it and start again. Start it again, yeah,” Shaw said. “It’s got to be, you know. If we can’t carry it on, it’s got to be void.”

All 20 Premier League clubs remain committed to completing the 2019-20 season whenever ‘safe to do so’ but there’s no resumption date currently lined up.

One option is for games to played behind closed doors, when possible, but Shaw isn’t keen on that either.

“Fans are so important. You realise it even more (now),” Shaw said. “I think the sport is for fans really… I think if you don’t have fans, and you don’t play in front of fans, it just doesn’t feel right. Especially on matchday, the fans are always amazing and always help the team. Whether it’s home or even away, our fans are always brilliant and I feel like they’re always there with us.”

The view of Shaw differs slightly from other Premier League players who have discussed the current suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic but there is a general consensus that they want to move onto the next season as soon as possible. When it comes to Shaw, his views are very interesting as Man United had rallied to be three points off the top four and had plenty of momentum ahead of the final nine games of the current league campaign, as well as being in a great position in the latter stages of the Europa League and FA Cup.

Man City star Kevin de Bruyne wants to move on from the 2019-20 season as soon as possible as he doesn’t think the start of the 2020-21 campaign should be delayed and is concerned about players being injured if they are asked to resume the season quickly.

Other players are fine to wait to see what the Premier League plans but Tottenham forward Harry Kane has also expressed his desire to move on from the current campaign if games cannot be completed by the end of June.

It is intriguing to hear so many differing views from Premier League players on when the season should resume, if at all, but Kane, Shaw and De Bruyne are all saying something slightly different. Therein lies the problem. How will a consensus be reached between PL clubs with so many different ideas and opinions on what should happen next?

If you throw club affiliations and rivalries into the mix, why on earth would a Man United star want the current season to be deemed as ‘void’ when Liverpool are 25 points clear at the top of the table and just five points away from securing the Premier League title…