The UK government has announced that sporting events could take place in empty stadiums from June 1 as it released its latest details on edging out of the current lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
[ MORE: Key week for PL ]
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to the UK on Sunday in a vague, confusing statement which didn’t mention professional sports returning but did say that people who couldn’t work from home should return to work and sports was allowed but only with people from your own household.
“Sporting events behind closed doors for broadcast which I think would provide a much needed boost to national morale,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday.
However, more details have since emerged in a 50-page document released on Monday, with the note below most interesting to Premier League fans, clubs and players hoping of a restart soon as the league has been suspended since March 13.
“Permitting cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed-doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact.”
It is added that sporting and cultural events will not return before June 1, while it doesn’t seem like fans will be allowed to attend games anytime soon: “reopening…venues that attract large crowds (like sports stadia) may only be fully possible significantly later depending on the reduction in numbers of infections.”
All 20 Premier League clubs have so far agreed that they want to finish the current season but only when things improve and it is safe to play again, while plenty of other issues are still to be sorted out for England’s top-flight to restart.
Social distancing measures will still be in place until at least July 1 across the UK, which currently has the highest death toll in Europe due to the coronavirus pandemic with over 32,000 deaths recorded.
The UK government have said they will halt any relaxation of the lockdown if new outbreaks occur and the science tells them to do so.
Several clubs (Watford, Brighton and Aston Villa) have publicly opposed the plan to play the remaining 92 games of the 2019-20 Premier League season at neutral stadiums, but talks this week are focused on ironing out the details of what a restart would look like. Players have also voiced safety concerns, while there are plenty of issues around testing and keeping the sporting integrity of the final nine games of the season.
Following the latest club meeting, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has revealed he will speak with the government to ask if home and away games are possible rather than neutral venues.
This is the first time the UK government has announced clear guidelines that it wants professional sport, including the Premier League, to return.
Previously the sports minister had stated he wants the PL to return ASAP but the government have been pretty quiet on the topic in recent days after saying that a Premier League restart would ‘lift the mood’ of the nation.
Boris Johnson will speak in parliament later on Monday and will be asked questions by journalists and the public, so there may be more clarity on these sporting and cultural events.
Either way, with the Premier League owners meeting today, this update could help them kickstart ‘Project Restart’ as their aim has been for games to return on June 12.
As long as the Premier League clubs and government can agree on a path forward, it seems like the season has been given the green light to restart. Now is the hard bit: all 20 clubs agreeing on exactly how the season will be played.