Will Premier League football continue in 2019/20? The preference is that it should, although the practicalities and potential risk involved still make it all rather uncertain.
Here’s a roundup of the latest development surrounding ‘Project Restart’ from the last 24 hours.
6 Clubs Oppose Project Restart
With Premier League clubs to meet again on Friday to continue talks over Project Restart and perhaps even start voting on certain measures or motions, the Daily Mirror reports that six of the 20 teams are currently against the 2019/20 season resuming.
Those who are said to have raised the concerns are Brighton, West Ham, Watford, Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Norwich, who also happen to be the league’s bottom six clubs.
Any Premier League motion must receive backing from 14 clubs to pass.
Relegation Could Be Scrapped
Relegating any club from the Premier League without finishing the season – and thereby denying them of all the riches being in the top flight entails – wouldn’t come without serious complaints.
As such, it has been reported by the Daily Telegraph that one ‘leading executive’ has suggested that scrapping relegation and removing that danger might be the only way to get struggling sides to agree to fulfil their remaining fixtures if and when games can resume.
One of the issues is that playing out the season will likely have to happen in neutral venues to limit the risk of spreading. That will remove home advantage and is viewed as unfair, but BBC Sport adds that removing the threat of relegation could make clubs more willing to play at neutral venues.
The by-product of no relegation is likely to be a larger league and at least a temporary return to the 22-team format that existed until 1995.
Festival of Football
The idea that Premier League fixtures will be squeezed to ensure all outstanding games can be played in a relatively short space of time is not a new one.
But The Sun claims that a seven-week programme has started to be discussed, which is longer than earlier plans to complete the 2019/20 season in just five – that would have meant every club playing two games per week and has increased injury risk.
Under than plan, supposedly the latest the season can begin is 19 June. That is because there is a risk of going beyond early August when UEFA plans to conclude the Champions League and begin to look ahead to the 2020/21 season.
It has already been suggested that next season could start some time between late August and mid-September, with only a minimal gap between the two campaigns.
Wolves to Resume Training
Wolves are planning for players to return to the training ground on Monday 11 May, according to Sky Sports and others. However, ‘strict social distancing’ will still have to be adhered to, while players will have to wash their own kit to minimise risk of contamination.
Fans Might Still Not Return in 2020/21
FA chairman Greg Clarke has warned that it is difficult to see fans returning to football matches for the foreseeable future, with BBC Sport reporting that the Premier League is preparing for the possibility that the 2020/21 season is also played behind closed doors.
“The reality is that we just don't know how things are going to pan out," Clarke wrote in a letter to the FA governing council, some of which has been made public by the BBC.
“But with social distancing in place for some time to come we do face substantial changes to the whole football ecosystem. For example, it’s hard to foresee crowds of fans - who are the lifeblood of the game - returning to matches any time soon.”