Project Restart: July Finish on Track, Fans Return Unlikely in 2020/21 & Liverpool Trophy Presentation

Manchester City v Huddersfield Town - Premier League
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The Premier League continues to work through its plans for 'Project Restart' with the aim of playing the 2019/20 season through to completion with minimal impact on the 2020/21 campaign.

Here's a look at all the latest news relating to the Premier League and coronavirus crisis....

Premier League Still Planning for July Finish

Manchester United v Manchester City - Premier League
Manchester United v Manchester City - Premier League | Michael Regan/Getty Images

The Premier League is still planning to finish the 2019/20 season in July so as to have minimal impact or delay on the beginning of a full 2020/21 campaign in late August or early September.

That rests on a June resumption but the league currently appears optimistic it can happen.

“There will come a point when next season becomes difficult to schedule. We are not at that point yet,” Premier League chief executive Richard Masters is quoted as saying by Sky Sports.

“The June return and July finish leaves time for a break for other competitions to be completed and start the season towards the end of August or very early September.

“Obviously, what we want to do is ensure the season is completed in a way which preserves other competitions, but also preserves our ability to start and deliver 38 match rounds next season in a proper calendar.”

Fans Returning in 2020/21 Looks Increasingly Unlikely

Arsenal FC v West Ham United - Premier League
Arsenal FC v West Ham United - Premier League | Julian Finney/Getty Images

It has previously been suggested that fans will not be able to return to football matches in the UK for the rest of the calendar year. Now, the chances of full stadiums at any point in the 2020/21 campaign appear increasingly slim.

Premier League chief medical adviser Dr Mark Gillett has warned that the “social and public health situation is not going to change over the next six to 12 months”.

That means there isn’t going to be a point in the foreseeable future when all social distancing measures are called off, which in turn means empty or reduced capacity stadiums where social distancing can still be observed will become a new normal for the time being.

Training Ground Inspectors

Manchester City Training Session
Manchester City Training Session | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

With players permitted to resume training in small groups, inspectors will be deployed to keep an eye on things and make sure that strict rules are being adhered to by each club.

Under the current guidelines, players must not train in groups larger than five, while no session per player or mini group can last for more than 75 minutes.

Breaking those rules would increase the health risks for all involved.

The Daily Mail skips over the risks of infection and oddly suggests the main reason for inspectors, which the tabloid unhelpfully dubs ‘spies’ and ‘snoops’, is to prevent anyone from training longer and therefore gaining an unfair advantage. The b***ards.

BBC Sport takes an understandably less dramatic view and simply labels the procedure ‘surprise inspections’. GPS tracking and video analysis could also come into it to make sure clubs are fully adhering to the rules, which are there to ensure safety as best as possible.

Premier League director Richard Garlick has explained that the aim is to have an inspector at every training ground, as well as an independent audit inspection unit that will inspect training grounds on a ‘no notice’ basis. In other words, they will just turn up unannounced.

Player Quarantines Before Games Resume

Premier League Football and Coronavirus Protective Mask
Premier League Football and Coronavirus Protective Mask | Visionhaus/Getty Images

To reduce the risk of spreading once fixtures have resumed, one hurdle that may have to be cleared before the games can actually go ahead is a 14-day quarantine period for all players.

“You need to be in a hotel environment for 14 days to make it truly effective,” the aforementioned Dr Gillett is quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph.

“That’s certainly something we are going to need to think about and consult widely with players, clubs, managers, PFA, all the stakeholders as we move through to that phase.”

Club Medics Not Sufficiently Consulted

Theo Walcott
Everton v Huddersfield Town - Premier League | Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

The Daily Mirror writes that there is concern among ‘nearly half’ of medical staff across the Premier League that they have not been sufficiently consulted in the ‘Project Restart’ process. That is the result of a survey of Football Medicine and Performance Association (FMPA) members, which includes doctors, physios, sport scientists and other medical staff.

FMPA chief executive Eamon Salmon said that the body was not asked to consult its members as part of ‘Project Restart’ in the way that the PFA and LMA has done.

“I believe this sent the wrong message to our members and implied, unwittingly or not, that their views were not required,” Salmon said.

“As frontline staff who are implementing these strategies, their collective views should have been heard. I should also add that, as yet, FMPA has not received a copy of the medical protocol from the Premier League or the EFL.”

Managers Won’t Be Filmed in Technical Areas

Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool FC v West Ham United - Premier League | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Television coverage will form a crucial part of ‘Project Restart’, with the idea that as much football is available to watch from home as possible to discourage fans from gathering in public.

The Daily Mail explains that Premier League clubs have been asked to find ways to help broadcasters enhance coverage, but that is not likely to include mooted plans to closely film managers and coaches in dugouts and technical areas for fear of recording expletives.

It is said that some clubs would consider it ‘almost impossible’ to stop managers swearing on the touchline. There is also concern that such footage could be used unfairly by others if it gives a window into specific tactical instructions that are dished out.

Premier League Wants Trophy Presentation

Alex Oxlade Chamberlain
West Ham United v Liverpool FC - Premier League | Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

The Premier League will organise an official trophy presentation this season as long as it is safe to do so, meaning Liverpool look likely to get their hands on the prize that has eluded them for so long.

The Reds are 25 points clear at the top of the table, although there have been doubts and speculation as to how, when or even if they would finish 2019/20 as champions.

"If at all possible, yes, you’d like to have a trophy presentation,” Richard Masters is quoted as saying by Sky Sports. “You want to give those players and the whole staff the moment they worked so hard for, if that’s what happens.

“Yes, we would try and do it, unless it wasn’t possible because of safety concerns.”

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