The latest Premier League club meeting has taken place via a four-hour video conference call and reports say a vote is set to be held on the plan to restart the 2019-20 season.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
Details from the ‘project restart’ plan was the primary focus during the meeting, as a vote is set to be held during the next club meeting on Friday, May 8 as to whether the season will resume.
The plan is for the 2019-20 Premier League season to restart on June 8 but there is still plenty to sort out between now and then as reports state that several clubs are unhappy about the plan to play games at neutral venues and give up ‘home games’ in their own stadiums. All games will, of course, be played in empty stadiums.
Here is the statement in full from the Premier League after the latest meeting, with the general focus on health concerns, as they canceled the academy season.
“At a meeting of Premier League Shareholders today, clubs discussed possible steps towards planning to resume the 2019/20 season, when it is safe and appropriate to do so. It was reiterated that the thoughts of all are with those directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the Premier League’s priority is the health and safety of players, coaches, managers, club staff, supporters and the wider community.
“The League and clubs are considering the first tentative moves forward and will only return to training and playing with Government guidance, under expert medical advice and after consultation with players and managers. The League welcomed the creation of the Government medical working group for a return of elite sport, which met for the first time this morning. No decisions were taken at today’s Shareholders’ meeting and clubs exchanged views on the information provided regarding “Project Restart”. It was agreed that the PFA, LMA, players and managers are key to this process and will be further consulted. The clubs reconfirmed their commitment to finishing the 2019/20 season, maintaining integrity of the competition and welcomed the Government’s support.”
So, there is still a genuine will to finish the season among the 20 Premier League clubs but only if they can do so in line with government guidelines. Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, revealed meetings are taking place and plans are being stepped up to bring sport back in the UK.
“I know Britain’s desperately want sport back on. We just kicked off the first of many detailed meetings to plan for a safe return of elite sport behind closed doors when, and only when, it is safe to do so on the basis of expert medical advice. Lots to consider, but today we step up planning,” Dowden said.
When it comes to testing players in training and having protocols in place to limit contact, various reports state that the Premier League clubs will privately source the coronavirus testing kits and many have already ordered face masks which players could wear during group training sessions. The plan is for players to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week and for training to resume on May 18.
The UK government has currently set lockdown measures until May 7 but Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to give an update before then and has hinted at relaxing certain social distancing measures. In recent days the government have confirmed they are in talks with the Premier League about how they could return to action and there remains a genuine desire to finish the remaining 92 games of the season.
Yet, there are still concerns that the Premier League may not finish the 2019-20 campaign as FIFA’s chief medical officer has said games should not return before September, while the French government have ended the Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 campaigns and handed out the titles to PSG and Lorient respectively. On top of that, the Dutch Eredivisie has been canceled, while there are growing concerns about Italy’s Serie A returning. Even the German Bundesliga, which was preparing to return to action next week, are delaying their plans due to a spike in coronavirus cases in Germany.
All signs point to Friday, May 8 as being D-Day when it comes to whether or not the 2019-20 Premier League season will resume. That meeting will come the day after the UK’s current lockdown restrictions are due to end and the clubs will know a lot more about the path ahead.