Premier League and Uefa set to discuss options for completing seasons
If conditions allow, English soccer’s Premier League is reported to be looking to restart the 2019-20 season in early May, with a view to wrapping up the campaign by 12 July, following delays brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
This proposal will be among those considered at a conference call of the 20 clubs on Friday, according to the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper.
Given likely ongoing concerns over the spread of the virus, the league is said to be looking to kick off behind closed doors, but with extensive television coverage to satisfy broadcasters and viewers.
However, a May resumption looks ambitious given the UK's rising death tally of almost 1,800, the current lockdown and claims by government and health officials that this could be in place for many months.
The league is thought to be eager to complete the fixtures in the second week of July given that, under existing television rights contracts, 16 July is the cut-off point for the end of the season, and domestic broadcasters Sky and BT Sport and international rights-holders could claim up to £762 million ($945 million) if the campaign is not completed.
This would also come as a boost to the players, officials and fans of Liverpool, the runaway leaders of the Premier League, which were close to securing their first title in 30 years when English soccer competitions were suspended this month.
At present, no matches are scheduled until at least 30 April, and a further extension is anticipated.
Clubs are not organising squad training, with players, like most of the population, forced to stay home.
Any resumption of the league, even behind closed doors, would require the support of the UK government and England’s Professional Footballers’ Association.
The situation is much the same in most European countries, notably Italy, where the pandemic has been particularly impactful, with almost 12,000 deaths, and the heads of Serie A clubs Fiorentina and Torino have questioned whether the currently suspended season will be completed.
Rocco Commisso, the owner of Fiorentina, told a Rai radio station: “Let’s think about health now, we’ll talk about football later. We’ll see if we can get back to training. But there’s a serious possibility that the championship won’t end.”
Urbano Cairo, the chairman of Torino, claimed that even if clubs can start training again in May, there would not be time to complete the championship.
He told another Rai station: “That would mean starting training at the end of May and then starting the games at the end of June, playing in July and August. Then give everyone a month off, a month to train and you would not start the next championship before November. It can’t be done.”
Before Serie A was suspended, defending champions Juventus were a point clear of Lazio at the top of the table.
In deciding when it is possible to resume fixtures, Europe’s top domestic leagues will be guided to some extent by Uefa, which, having postponed the 2020 European Championships to 2021, is looking to complete this season’s Champions League and Europa League club competitions by the end of June.
European soccer’s governing body is due to hold a video conference with member national associations on Wednesday to consider the next moves.
Following the postponement of Euro 2020 on 17 March, Uefa created two working groups, one to look into calendar matters and solutions relating to the pandemic, and the other to assess the economic, financial and regulatory impact, and they are set to report back this week.
In a statement, Uefa said it had “invited the general secretaries of its 55 members associations to a video conference on Wednesday 1 April at midday to share an update on the progress made by the two working groups that were created two weeks ago and to discuss options identified with regards to the potential rescheduling of matches.
"The meeting will look at developments across all Uefa national team and club competitions, as well as discussing progress at Fifa and European level on matters such as player contracts and the transfer system."
The Champions League and Europa League are presently suspended at the round-of-16 stage.
Meanwhile, the LFP, the French football league, is reported to be planning negotiations with the country’s government to secure a bank loan of up to €250 million ($274 million) to provide financial aid to clubs in the Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 divisions while they are suspended amid the pandemic.
It is understood that a telephone meeting held on Monday gave the LFP a mandate to “consolidate short-term cash flow needs” and seek a common framework for salary adjustments for players while there is no income.
The loan would be guaranteed with revenue from the next TV rights contract.
In a statement, the LFP said the collaboration was a response “to the sporting and economic consequences of the health crisis; In an unprecedented situation, French professional football has clearly demonstrated its unity and solidarity.”