'Project Restart' Latest: Shortened Halves, More Substitutes, Plans to Reassure Footballers & More

Adam Aladay
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Despite several leagues from around Europe opting against restarting their current seasons due to the impact of the coronavirus crisis, England seems hell-bent on finding a way to finish the 2019/20 campaign.

However, there are a vast number of technical, logistical and moral dilemmas to overcome as discussions continue about how/when/where football in England will return.

Here's a look at the latest developments surrounding 'Project Restart' this Tuesday...

Sub 45-Minute Halves an Option?

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One idea possibly being discussed in order for football to resume as part of 'Project Restart' involves Premier League clubs not playing full 45 minute halves, while teams could also be allowed more substitutes.

PFA Chief Gordon Taylor told BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday (as quoted by Dan Roan of the BBC): "We'll have to wait and see. I'm talking about protocol that's coming out, talking about the future. And we don't know the future, but what we do know is what propositions have been put...the possibility of having more substitutes, games possibly not being the full 45 minutes each way with talks of neutral stadiums.

"There's lots of things being put forward, try and wait and see what the protocols are."

Taylor was keen to stress that there are a number of factors at play, most notably whether it is safe to restart the season. He also noted that he doesn't expect any top flight football to be played before the middle of June at the very earliest.

EFL chairman Rick Parry has also spoken up on the matter of reducing the lengths of each half, telling the Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport committee (via Simon Stone of the BBC) that he is 'not aware' of any talks regarding this. However, Parry went on to add that 'creative ideas' shouldn't be ruled out.

Broadcasters Against Plans to Scrap Relegation

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It has previously been noted that relegation from the Premier League could be scrapped this season as this will encourage clubs lower down the league to agree to fulfil their remaining 2019/20 fixtures if and when it is safe to do so.

However, this wouldn't come without serious complaints, and The Telegraph now report that broadcasters are 'expected' to oppose any plans for relegation to be scrapped this term. It claims that broadcasters will find it challenging to 'sell' Project Restart if there is no battle to avoid the drop.

Broadcasters are willing to even argue that getting rid of relegation amounts to a breach of contract. If games are not played or the 'conditions' are changed, broadcasters would be due roughly £762m in rebates.

Moreover, if and when football is able to resume, all games are likely to be broadcast domestically, with 'some' set to be free on Sky Sports and BT Sports' YouTube channels.

'Project Restart' Meeting Put on Hold Until Government Update

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Prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to update the nation on Sunday on government plans to boost the economy and begin to restore normality to people's daily lives.

The Mirror report that Premier League chiefs will now push their Friday meeting back until Monday in order to determine whether to 'press ahead' with Project Restart and look to complete the campaign.

And should games be able to resume, they would be played behind closed doors, while games would also be played at neutral venues. The Mirror state that Wembley Stadium is 'back' on the list of potential venues.

The government and police will select between eight and ten neutral venues, and Wembley fits the bill. This is due to its location, which will make it easier to crowd control for the authorities. Furthermore, there are hotels and conferencing facilities which could be used by clubs.

Plans to Convince Football it Is Safe to Return

It is most definitely understandable and to be expected that footballers have voiced their concerns regarding a potential resumption to the campaign, but The Times report that government officials, medical experts and leading sports officials will unveil a final set of coronavirus protocols this week.

This is in order to 'convince' Premier League footballers that it is safe to return. In a meeting on Wednesday involving the cross-sports working group, a group formed of administrators and doctors from a number of sports, as well as government medical experts and officials from the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport, they 'will agree' on plans to protect athletes in training and games.

These plans will then be presented to the Professional Footballers’ Association and the League Managers’ Association with the hope of reassuring athletes and coaches that it is safe.

Elsewhere, with regards to neutral venues, The Times add that between eight and ten top flight clubs are still opposed to the idea. A majority of 14 is required. However, a leading administrator said that should the government opt to reopen stores and allow people to return to work in the coming weeks, it will be 'harder' for clubs to say no.

What About the EFL?

EFL chairman Parry has spoken up on the issue of promotion and relegation to and from the Premier League. Parry (via Rob Harris) has confirmed to the DCMS committee that the EFL 'needs to finish' by 31 July.

Moreover, Parry went on to add: "We expect three clubs to be promoted. The Premier League is aware of our position on that...their position is they expect three clubs to be relegated."

To that end, it would be an 'outrage' and a 'breach' of agreements if there was to be no promotion from the Championship to the top tier this campaign.

Elsewhere, Parry has added (via Simon Stone) that it is 'premature' to say for certain whether Leeds United or Liverpool should be crowned as champions of their respective divisions if the 2019/20 season is unable to resume.