The Premier League intention remains to try and complete the 2019/20 season when it is safe to do.
This is after Friday’s meeting between all 20 clubs saw options to resume the campaign begin to be discussed under 'Project Restart', although no decisions have been made and talks will continue.
Premier League football has not been played since 9 March as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, with more than 26,000 deaths recorded in the UK. But the safe return of football has been publicly backed by Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
A Premier League statement published following the conclusion of the meeting read: “At a meeting of Premier League Shareholders today, clubs discussed possible steps towards planning to resume the 2019/20 season, when it is safe and appropriate to do so.
“It was reiterated that the thoughts of all are with those directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the Premier League’s priority is the health and safety of players, coaches, managers, club staff, supporters and the wider community.
“The League and clubs are considering the first tentative moves forward and will only return to training and playing with Government guidance, under expert medical advice and after consultation with players and managers.”
That statement also noted: “No decisions were taken at today’s Shareholders’ meeting and clubs exchanged views on the information provided regarding 'Project Restart'.
“It was agreed that the PFA, LMA, players and managers are key to this process and will be further consulted. The clubs reconfirmed their commitment to finishing the 2019/20 season, maintaining integrity of the competition and welcomed the Government’s support.”
The Daily Telegraph writes that Friday’s videoconference meeting included discussions about playing the 92 outstanding fixtures at neutral venues, as well as the introduction of ‘stringent health checks’ and test for players twice a week.
The newspaper notes that the next meeting will take place on Friday 8 May, bringing that follow up forward by a week as it was originally scheduled for Friday 15 May, which is too far away.
On Thursday, leading the daily briefing for the first time since his discharge from hospital, prime minister Boris Johnson had declared the UK has ‘passed the peak’ and on the ‘downward slope’.
Johnson also promised a ‘comprehensive plan’ next week detailing how restrictions that are currently in place will be relaxed moving forward. However, he additionally warned that it remains ‘vital’ to avoid a dangerous second peak of the outbreak.
Given the government’s intention to begin sharing its ‘exit plan’ in the coming days, next Friday’s Premier League meeting with be even more crucial if possible dates are discussed, as shaped by the government strategy.
As things stand, the week of 6 June – 13 June has been loosely suggested to resume games. Players aren’t necessarily on board, however.
“The majority of players are scared because they have family, they have children, they have babies, parents,” Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero said this week.
“It does scare me but I have just been here with my girlfriend. I haven’t had contact with other people and they say that to contract the disease is very rare and difficult but they say that there are people who have it, and they don’t have symptoms and they can infect you.”
Brighton striker Glenn Murray has criticised suggestions that players could wear face masks to protect themselves and others during training.
“I think it is quite farcical. I understand why people are desperate to get football on – I am one of those people – but it’s got to be done in a sensible way, and at the right time, in a way that keeps not only the players and staff safe but there is so much that goes into a football game,” Murray said, via The Guardian.
“There are going to be ambulances at training and at games: is it fair to take that [resource] from the NHS? It’s not as if it’s just two squads facing each other.
“There’s a lot more input to it and it puts a lot more people at risk. It’s going to be very hard to mark players at a corner if there are social distancing measures in place.”