Premier League’s return hinges on progress of coronavirus mass-testing

Contractual complications around 30 June deadline were not discussed at a league meeting

Rob Harris
Friday 17 April 2020 17:16
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Coronavirus: How has sport been affected?

Premier League clubs on Friday discussed how the season can be completed when the government declares it is safe for sports to resume during the coronavirus pandemic.

Britain’s national lockdown was extended on Thursday for another three weeks, making it unclear when players can resume training or matches will be permitted, even without fans as is expected.

The league’s planning includes an awareness that it could only be possible to play when there is a sufficient availability of Covid-19 testing and medical services can be in place at stadiums that are not being relied on by the health authorities to deal with the pandemic.

It is part of what the league calls “complex planning scenarios” being drawn up around timeframes to eventually be allowed to play with “full support” of government.

A Premier League spokesperson said: “Today’s Shareholders’ Meeting provided an opportunity to discuss possible scheduling models. It remains our objective to complete the 2019-20 season but at this stage all dates are tentative while the impact of Covid-19 develops.

“In common with other businesses and industries, the Premier League and our clubs are working through complex planning scenarios.

“We are actively engaging with stakeholders, including broadcast partners, and our aim is to ensure we are in a position to resume playing when it is safe to do so and with the full support of the Government.

“The health and wellbeing of players, coaches, managers, club staff and supporters are our priority and the League will only restart when medical guidance allows.”

Liverpool holds a 25-point lead at the top of the standings with nine games remaining in its quest to end a 30-year title drought. Belgium is the only major European nation that wants to prematurely end its topflight season, a plan that is opposed by Uefa.

The last Premier League game was played on March 9 before the competition was suspended after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi were infected with Covid-19.

Hudson-Odoi’s teammate, Willian, has highlighted how even playing in closed stadiums presents a health risk for players.

Anfield is shut for the foreseeable future due to coronavirus

“If we restart playing without fans but there’s contact on the pitch and maybe we can spread the virus between us,” Willian said. “It’s not a bad idea but they have to know very carefully what’s going to happen. Maybe a player can have the virus and we play against each other, you know?

“I play against someone and I get the virus then I go home after the game to stay with my family and pass the virus to my wife or daughters. So we have to be careful about that.”

Extending the season far beyond its expected end-point in mid-May has additional complications for players like Willian whose contracts expire on 30 June.

Fifa has asked for players and clubs to extend contracts until the seasons are eventually concluded, while Uefa has worked on plans for leagues to resume around Europe by July and August.

AP

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