'Project Restart' Latest: Neutral Venues, Championship Playoffs, Player and Club Unrest & More

BRITAIN-HEALTH-VIRUS-FBL-ENG-PR-LIVERPOOL
BRITAIN-HEALTH-VIRUS-FBL-ENG-PR-LIVERPOOL | PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

While a selection of leagues around Europe have opted to wrap up proceedings and not complete their seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic, this is not the intention of the Premier League.

All 20 top flight clubs met on Friday to discuss the logistics of resuming the season in what has been branded 'Project Restart'.

No decisions were formally taken at the meeting, but the return of football has received the backing of Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Let's take a look at the latest developments.

Neutral Venues & No Anfield Party for Liverpool

Aerial Views Of Anfield As Football Remains Suspended Due To Coronavirus
Aerial Views Of Anfield As Football Remains Suspended Due To Coronavirus | Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The Mirror reports that 'Project Restart' proposes that clubs' remaining nine to 10 games will be played at neutral, approved top flight stadiums.

These will likely include Brighton's AmEx, St Mary's in Southampton, and West Ham's and Manchester City's homes - as these are all modern grounds and located outside of the city centre.

This would mean that league leaders Liverpool would not lift their long awaited maiden Premier League title at Anfield.

The games will be played behind closed doors, with a maximum of 300 people at each ground. This will mainly be players, staff, security and media.

The reports say that while there is no fixed return date, as things stand, the week of 6 June – 13 June has been suggested to resume games.

Premier League 'Civil War'

Graham Potter
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League | Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

'Project Restart' has not been received harmoniously.

According to the Mirror, there is a friction between the top six sides and the rest of the Premier League.

The report states that Premier League's elite are 'in danger of destroying football's integrity' by pushing to finish the season during a devastating global pandemic.

Relegation threatened sides are against the suggestion of using neutral venues to complete the season, as every club would lose home advantage.

According to journalist Jonathan Veal, Brighton are 'adamant' that they want to keep their remaining five home games.

The Seagulls sit two points clear of the relegation zone, but five of their remaining nine fixtures were scheduled to be at home. Four of those were against Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool...

The Championship Picture

Luke Ayling
Leeds United v Bristol City - Sky Bet Championship | George Wood/Getty Images

If the season cannot be completed in full, The Guardian reports that Football League's preferred conclusion would be to promote Leeds and West Brom - who are currently seven and six points clear in the Championship promotion places with nine games remaining - and play the playoffs to determine the final promotion spot.

The playoffs would consists of current top six sides Fulham, Brentford, Nottingham Forest and Preston. These would be one legged ties staged behind closed doors at neutral venues.

Swansea, Blackburn, Cardiff, Millwall and Bristol City are all within three points or less of the top six, but would miss out under these circumstances.

Promotion from the Championship hinges on the Premier League season being completed and sides being relegated from the top flight.

According to the Mirror, if the season is curtailed, promoting just Leeds and West Brom and playing with an extended 22-team Premier League remains a possibility.

Player Unrest

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

Clubs were presented with a medical report stating training guidelines and requirements should football resume.

This included wearing face masks in training, sterilising footballs and testing twice a week.

However, according to the Mirror, Premier League players were not aware of this until they saw the news in the papers on Thursday.

Players were said to be 'shocked' and 'bemused' that they had not been consulted, while chief executives, club owners and chairmen had.

Health Before Football

Aymeric Laporte
Real Madrid v Manchester City - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg | Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images

Manchester City's Aymeric Laporte admits that although he wants to play football again as soon as possible, the decision should be left in the hands of the health experts.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Laporte said: "The news soon could be good, but the most important thing is health.

"We are waiting for news on what the experts say about that, and this is the most important thing. They are the best at doing this job, and they will try to make the best decision for everyone.


"I'm missing football a lot - I want to play and train, and I think it's the first time in my life I have not played for this length of time. Hopefully, soon we'll be back on the pitch and in the Champions League too."

When Will We Get a Decision and When Could the Season Conclude?

Official Premier League Match Ball
Official Premier League Match Ball | Visionhaus/Getty Images

The Mirror reports that a vote could take place on Friday - the day after the government announce their lockdown update.

It will require 14 clubs to vote in favour of 'Project Restart' for the plans to go ahead, which could be a struggle given the opposition from those outside the top six.

The best case scenario would involve players returning to training from 18 May, and the first game kicking off on 12 June.

All games could be completed within a six-week period, but no exact date has been set.