Premier League teams commit to completing season ahead of decisive vote next week

Premier League teams discussed terms for ‘Project Restart’ on a conference call on Friday, with much of the discussion over neutral venues

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
Friday 01 May 2020 18:00 BST
Coronavirus: How has sport been affected?

The Premier League clubs clarified some of the terms for ‘Project Restart’ in a four-hour video conference on Friday, that will likely be to put to a vote next week in order to finally get football going.

The possibility of neutral grounds was one of the most debated topics, with some clubs still having reservations.

The decision to end the Ligue 1 season was discussed, especially given stories that the French sports ministry will seek to lobby the other major European countries to do similar.

That only brought a renewed commitment to finishing this campaign, and avoiding similar measures, as the latest UK government guidelines were discussed.

The Independent understands that it was made clear to the clubs that the conditions that are making football difficult now are likely to remain difficult for a considerable period of time, with the reasons for not continuing the 2019/20 season hardly likely to change anytime soon.

If a June restart proposal was rejected, for example, then it would make little sense to resume the season in August, in the continued absence of a vaccine being both discovered and mass produced.

Such a delay would then inevitably increase the likelihood of grave financial difficulties and job losses.

A statement read: “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.

“The league welcomed the creation of the Government medical working group for a return of elite sport, which met for the first time this morning.

“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 Independent has been told that the possibility of neutral grounds took up a lot of the videoconference, especially since some clubs are uncomfortable with this. The reality is that, in order to complete this campaign amid coronavirus restrictions behind closed doors, some grounds will not be suitable use. Another factor in the thinking behind neutral grounds is safety, both within and without, as it will be easier to prevent fans congregating.

The Premier League has been suspended indefinitely

A key part of the talks was attempting to smooth this, especially as it is vital in terms of the Premier League actually going ahead on the planned date of 8 June.

The next meeting will be next Friday, 8 May, where clubs are expected to vote on these plans.

The Independent has been told that two clubs are still in favour of ending the season, and were especially vocal about neutral grounds.

A further handful would probably prefer ending the season now, but are comfortable with going with the majority. The government are keen that football is part of the 'normalisation' process, although have insisted that teams and staff are tested three times a week. This is seen as a surmountable problem, especially when tests are more widespread over the next few weeks. The players have a higher threshold for safety, and want greater guarantees and assurances. As with some clubs, though, it is being stressed to them that this is likely to be the new reality and not playing could lead to the loss of jobs and even clubs.

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