The powers that be of English football believe that the rest of the season can be wrapped up in about six weeks — including Premier League, Championship, lower leagues, and the FA Cup as well — and that’s the tentative schedule that they are putting in place at the moment, according to an exclusive report from the Telegraph.
The suspension of the season due to the coronavirus pandemic has been recently extended to April 30, but this plan would tack on another month to that (probably not unreasonably) and aim to restart on June 1st (with players returning to training 2-3 weeks before then probably).
Games would be played behind closed doors, with specially sanctioned “emergency crews” staffing the grounds. The idea of closed doors game to finish out the season has gone from speculation to a “universally accepted proviso” in the space of less than a week.
Six weeks from June 1st would of course stretch the season into mid-July, but then a four-week offseason and a six-week transfer window would allow the new season to start more or less as normal, in mid-August.
The push into mid-July would run contrary to UEFA’s commitment last week to chopping off the season at June 30th like usual, and would bring with it a whole host of financial and legal considerations, but it sounds like those would be more easily surmountable than the alternative, which would leave competitions unfinished, titles and promotions and relegations in administrative quagmire, and already cash-strapped (non-Premier League) clubs scrambling for funds.
"Under the June 1 plan there would be a six-week window to get the season finished up to around July 11, including the FA Cup, which would be challenging but possible and would satisfy the requirements of broadcasters." https://t.co/NlFiXqWEM2— Telegraph Football (@TeleFootball) March 22, 2020
Pushing out the end of the season beyond by about two weeks would require a blessing from FIFA (who have apparently already promised to intervene if needed) as well as extending every contract (players, staff, broadcasters, media, etc) by those two weeks, but at least one Premier League CEO, Southampton’s Martin Semmers, doesn’t think that would be a big problem.
“We hope to get the league done by the end of June and that would be easier for everybody. As soon as you go past that date there are then those legal challenges and issues that we have to fulfil.
“But if we end up playing until July 15 and you had to extend a player’s contract by two weeks, I don’t believe that will be a substantial challenge to try and convince a player to play two more weeks’ football. I just don’t think — when you look at all the challenges the country is facing right now — to get paid very nicely to do it before he moves to a new club [would be difficult].”
“The challenge is making sure we don’t have a knock-on effect into other seasons and make football compromised as the years go on.”
-Martin Semmers; source: Radio Solent via Telegraph
This sounds like a fairly reasonable plan at the moment. It is not without potential challenge or pitfalls, but given the unprecedented circumstances and conditions, it is probably the best we can do (hope for) right now.
Whether we can actually make it happen — both in terms of the sporting considerations (financial, legal, fitness, etc) and in terms of the state of the world (economic, societal, etc) — remains to be seen.