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Football and the Coronavirus: English Premier League Project Restart

By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw Discussions and consultations are ongoing about a possible restart in early June 2020 of the current English Premier League season, which has been suspended since 13 March 2020, as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. Following a meeting on 1 May 2020, the League issued the following Statement: “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 COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the Premier league’s priority is the health and safety of players, coaches, manager, club staff, supporters and the wider community. The League and clubs are considering the first tentative move 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 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 finish the 2019/20 season, maintaining integrity of the competition and welcomed the Government’s support.” As will be seen from the Statement, there are many ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ about resuming and completing the current season and not all clubs, in fact, are in agreement on the way forward, including the possibility of playing matches at so-called neutral venues abroad that has been mooted. In the opinion of the author, because of all these uncertainties and lack of agreement, it would appear that perhaps the best and fairest solution to the present dilemma, especially on the practical arrangements for keeping players and officials safe if the 92 remaining games are restarted, would be to declare the current season ‘null and void’ without any relegations and promotions. This would, it is submitted, ensure the integrity of the competition. This is obviously a difficult call to make and will have financial consequences for all football stakeholders, especially broadcasters, under whose current agreements refunds of some three-quarters of a billion GB pounds may become due and payable! Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw may be contacted by e-mail at ‘This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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