If all goes well, or at least well enough, we could have football back in a little over a month, with a restart date of around June 8-12, or so, though that was not officially confirmed.
What the Premier League did stress in their statement was that nothing will go ahead without governmental approval, not training and certainly not any games. Just as the desire to finish out the 2019-20 season, they’ve accepted this requirement from the beginning, but its often gotten lost in the morality play that is modern day ultra-rich sports trying to navigate the murky waters of a pandemic.
The reportedly four-hour-long meeting concentrated on fleshing out those plans that could enable a return to football, should the government give their okay, details of which had been revealed already leading up to Friday’s crunch meeting — one of which is the twice weekly testing of players, with clubs investing in quick-turnaround testing machines (which were not deemed not cost-effective by the NHS). To show just how serious this planning process is, the next meeting is set for next Friday already.
The UK government’s latest lockdown measures will be announced the day before that meeting, which could either accelerate football’s plans or put a serious brake on things once again. But if things go as expected, the league will be targeting a mid-May return to training a mid-June return to playing.
If games are held, they will be held behind closed doors in a tournament setting, with three possible venues getting floated in the tabloids: Arsenal’s Emirates, City’s Etihad, and West Ham’s Olympic Stadium, with none of those three teams playing at their own stadium. The idea behind selecting those three would be that they’re in (relatively) less congested urban areas.
While there is no perfect solution in this situation, the powers that be appear to be working hard to find a solution that strikes a good enough balance of legal, financial, societal, and of course medical concerns.
Is that even possible? We’ll find out in the next six weeks.
Here’s today’s Premier League statement, in full:
“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.”