The Premier League fears collective losses of up to £1bn if the season cannot be completed and has to be cancelled, with TV broadcast revenue expected to be the biggest area where clubs miss out on lost revenue in that worst-case scenario.
The Premier League remains committed to finding a way of finishing the season, with recent new measures from FIFA removing calendar restrictions to extend 2019/20 indefinitely and give every national association more flexibility to conclude the campaign as necessary.
Any restart is highly unlikely before June, but one idea that has previously been reported to have gained some traction is that of a ‘World Cup-style’ conclusion with games played every few days at a limited number of venues, all behind closed doors.
With that seemingly still on the table as a possibility, The Times has now reported that the FA has offered use of Wembley and the St George’s Park national football centre, situated in Burton upon Trent in the midlands, so the remaining games can be played safely.
I really, really would like to think this is doable. But isolating the teams means coaches, players, support staff etc all staying away from their families for weeks, plus (if all played in one location) hotel staff, cooks, security, to/from stadium coach drivers https://t.co/PQEXgGGJon— Chris Deeley (@ThatChris1209) April 12, 2020
With as many as 13 pitches, five of which are floodlit, plus a hotel with 228 rooms, St George’s Park is an interesting choice and could double as a quarantined training centre.
The Times report adds that the plans remains for any Premier League games played behind closed doors to be broadcast live on television or made available via streams. The longstanding Saturday 3pm TV blackout has already been temporarily suspended to allow for that.
Viability Still Questionable
However, the viability of games being clustered somewhere like Wembley or St George’s Park remains unclear. Christian Machowski, whose company organise travel for elite sides, recently warned against a lack of enough suitable infrastructure to house players and support staff.
“Everybody wants the best for their team, but there’s only a small number of elite hotels that are suitable,” Machowski told the Daily Mirror.
“For example, there are two or three hotels in London where all the teams tend to stay when they play there. To find a venue where 20 teams can find facilities up to the required standard is just not workable,” he added.
“In terms of training facilities, teams would also want to be as a close as possible, so that would present problems. Then you would have to quarantine the same hotel staff for three or four weeks. And if one team picked up an infection, whether it’s a player or member of staff, that’s the end of the tournament.”
It was recently rumoured that Premier League clubs have already told players to prepare to resume training in May, with the suggestion that each team could make use of coronavirus testing machines to test every player daily to ensure there are no outbreaks.
Broadcasters Banned from Probing Players on Restart
The Daily Mail reports that Sky Sports and BT Sport have been blocked from asking Premier League managers and players a range of questions relating to the suspension of games. That includes topics such as implications of voiding the season, playing behind closed doors, finances and wages, or even what it could mean for Liverpool and their attempt to win the title.
Premier League clubs have agreed to make managers available for interview with the broadcasters every four weeks, with a player from each available every two. But Sky and BT have been warned that access will be revoked if they overstep the mark and touch on the banned topics.
RHodgson & Crystal Palace Back Restart
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson has commented that he doesn’t believe the Premier League season can be finished in an ‘artificial way and must be properly concluded, even if that means making ‘sacrifices’ like playing remaining games in a shorter period of time.
“Everyone is in total agreement we need an end to this season,” Hodgson said in an address published on Palace’s official website. “We don’t want artificial means of deciding who wins the league, who gets into the Champions League, who gets relegated and promoted.
“Ideally our players would have three or four weeks minimum to prepare for the first match back, but I accept there may have to be a squeeze on that timeframe.
“I think with all of these sacrifices – and I am uncomfortable using that word in such a context – everyone will be more than happy to go along with what it takes in order to get playing again as soon as possible in order to get the season finished.”