The Premier League is said to be concocting a ‘radical’ idea to ensure that the 2019/20 season can finish amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, one that would see all 92 outstanding fixtures played behind closed doors at neutral venues and live on television.
As things stand, the Premier League and English Football League (EFL) are both suspended until at least 3 April to help protect players, staff and fans against the further spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Euro 2020 has now been postponed by UEFA until 2021, giving domestic leagues around Europe extra time to finish their respective seasons.
A statement from the governing body on the ‘resolution’ explains that UEFA, the European Club Association (ECA), European Leagues, and FIFPro have collectively agreed to a commitment to ‘complete all domestic and European club competitions by the end of the current sporting season, i.e. 30 June 2020 at the latest, should the situation improve and resuming playing be appropriate and prudent enough.’
According to a report from The Sun, the Premier League’s plan to do this is to stage all remaining fixtures behind closed doors at neutral venues, although the tabloid’s claim that English clubs have ‘more matches left to play than the likes of Italy and Spain’ is simply not true.
The logic is that using only a limited number of stadiums, potentially a cluster in the midlands, would help limit policing and emergency service needs, and multiple games could be played at a single venue on the same day.
It is also suggested that playing in a neutral location would prevent fans gathering outside the stadium anyway, as was the case in France last week when PSG supporters celebrated their team’s behind closed doors win over Borussia Dortmund.
Then there is the idea that all games could be screened on TV. The Sun only addresses this as a way to ‘keep Sky and other TV companies happy’, which makes some sense after concerns earlier this week that money and the risk of lost revenue has put a worrying degree of urgency in the Premier League’s plan to agree a time frame for the competition to be resumed.
But broadcasting remaining games on TV could also serve a deterrent to fans gathering in large numbers outside stadiums because they can watch at home instead.
The Times previously reported that the traditional UK live broadcast blackout on Saturday afternoon could be scrapped to help, while a separate report from the same newspaper explained that TV companies could be asked to broadcast games free to air, lessening the need for people who cannot afford a subscription from potentially gathering in crowded pubs instead.