Project Restart: Return Dates & State of Play Across Europe's Big Five Leagues

Tom Gott
May 11, 2020, 4:38 PM GMT+1
FC Barcelona Training Session
FC Barcelona Training Session / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Football might just be coming back. Maybe.

We've already seen France's Ligue 1 called off as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, but the rest of Europe's 'big five' leagues (the Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A) are all planning to come back at some point in the near future.

Unfortunately, it's not as easy as just 'coming back'. There are hundreds of issues which need to be considered, so talks on how to return to normality are still ongoing.

Nevertheless, there does seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel somewhere, so let's take a look at the state of play across Europe with each country's proposed timeline, ahead of UEFA's deadline for decisions on 25 May.

Premier League

The UK government have given the Premier League the first glimmer of hope by revealing that sport will be free to return from 1 June, as long as the coronavirus outbreak does not spike again following de-escalation procedures.

The focus will be on the impact of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's new lockdown measures, which encourage people to return to work and permit the public to spend more time outside.

In the ideal scenario, football will return on 1 June, but it will certainly be behind closed doors to try and minimise the spread of the virus. Fans will not be allowed in stadiums and may only be permitted to return in small numbers after 4 July.

General Views of Sport Venues after events postponed due to Covid-19
General Views of Sport Venues after events postponed due to Covid-19 / Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

League officials are pushing to play the remainder of the season at neutral venues, but at least six sides are concerned that it would have an unfair impact on the relegation battle, so the idea of scrapping the drop has been suggested.

14 teams need to vote in favour of the rule change, so talks are ongoing to try and find a solution which would please everyone.

Meanwhile Sky report that 18 May has been 'pencilled in' for clubs to resume training, while 8 and 12 June have previously been mooted as potential dates for a return to competitive action.

Continue or cancel: Continue (behind closed doors in neutral venues)

Proposed return date: June - not official

La Liga

Spanish sides have already started returning to training in the hope of an imminent return to action, and La Liga president Javier Tebas has confirmed that competitive football will hopefully start again on 12 June.

Matches in Spain's top two tiers will reportedly be played every day to try and get the season over and done with as soon as possible, and like in England, fans will not be allowed into the stadiums, although Tebas has insisted that 'the alternatives will be very interesting and groundbreaking when it comes to football broadcasts'.

Players will be subject to regular coronavirus tests to protect the safety of everyone involved. Tests are expected to be conducted daily among players, but non-playing staff will only have to take three tests between now and the end of the season.

Players will begin training individually but could move into smaller groups if the situation improves, and any player who is diagnosed with the virus will instantly be sent to self-isolate for a period of ten days.

Unlike the Premier League, La Liga is happy to let teams use their own stadiums, and work is already underway to help make the grounds as safe as possible, while there has been talk of making the stadiums interactive to compensate for the lack of fans.

Continue or cancel: Continue (behind closed doors)

Proposed return date: 12 June - not official


The Bundesliga is leading the race to return and is set to get back underway on 16 May, when Borussia Dortmund, Schalke and RB Leipzig are all scheduled to be in action.

Clubs returned to training back in April, so they have had plenty of time to get back towards peak fitness, and all have followed a long list of rules about how to keep as safe as possible. Social distancing has been key and some players have trained in masks.

Hertha BSC forward Salomon Kalou risked ruining everything with a behind-the-scenes video at training which showed players shaking hands and laughing about the whole situation, with Kalou even barging in on a teammate's coronavirus test, but league officials appear to have dealt with the incident.

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim v Hertha BSC - Bundesliga
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim v Hertha BSC - Bundesliga / TF-Images/Getty Images

Players are expected to be tested twice weekly, with two separate tests conducted each time to ensure no false positives are found.

Some teams are even giving players daily questionnaires to fill out, and they will only be permitted to attend training if their answers suggest there are no health issue to worry about.

Players are forbidden from meeting the public or neighbours, and anyone in the players' homes will be encouraged to undergo regular tests themselves.

Continue or cancel: Continue (behind closed doors)

Proposed return date: 16 May

Serie A

Serie A was one of the first leagues to be suspended after Italy was severely hit by the coronavirus outbreak early on in the pandemic, but a return may not be far away.

Players have already returned to individual training and the plan is for them to engage in team training on 18 May, but as of yet, there is no official date set for competitive action to return, although an end date of 2 August has been agreed upon.

Somewhere between 27 May and 2 June has been suggested, and Italy's sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora recently admitted (via Goal) that they are awaiting the final verdict on a list of safety protocols for teams to follow before they even consider discussing when returning will be possible.

Players and staff will all be regularly tested, and as noted by BBC Sport, the plan is for the league to donate five testing kits for each one used by someone at a football club, so as to ensure that there are enough resources for everyone.

League officials want to see whether the return to training has any impact on the rate of infection. Plenty of Serie A stars, including the likes of Paulo Dybala and Blaise Matuidi, have tested positive for coronavirus in the past, so there is an understandable hesitance to set anything in stone just yet.

Continue or cancel: Continue (behind closed doors)

Proposed return date: 27 May-2 June - not official

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