Premier League clubs have discussed resuming the season on the weekend of 13-14 June after Uefa wrote to domestic associations stating a desire they should finish their competitions by 31 July to leave August clear for the completion of the Champions League and Europa League.
The letter from European football’s governing body formed the basis of a two-hour conference call on Friday that explored how the Premier League may be concluded.
While any resumption is being modelled on matches occurring behind closed doors, guiding the decision-making is the overriding principle that the National Health Service’s ability to treat those with Covid-19 should not be compromised and that it has to be at ease with the top-flight restarting. This means the Premier League wants the NHS to give the go-ahead and so the health service has power of veto.
In the best-case scenario clubs would have a “pre-season” from 10 or 14 May, giving players four weeks to regain fitness, with the minimum they would need set at two weeks. If training began three or four weeks before the weekend of 13 and 14 June, the opening days may feature players training individually or in small groups to ensure the best protection before squads worked together as normal.
Protocols devised by the Premier League and club doctors and signed off by the requisite bodies would have testing at the forefront and would be in place to try to ensure a safe return to games. Those at matches – players, club staff, officials, security and media – would all have to be tested and there would have to be procedures to address the prospect of large groups of fans gathering outside stadiums.
Uefa’s wish is that the Champions League and Europa League should each recommence from the week of Monday 3 August with the final of the former being staged on Saturday 29 August and that of the latter to be played a few days before.
If the Premier League was to restart on 13 June – a Saturday – it would allow seven weeks to finish the season. As 16 clubs have nine matches left and Manchester City, Sheffield United, Aston Villa and Arsenal have 10, the timeframe would appear to be long enough for the campaign to be finished comfortably.
It is understood the Premier League is conscious of a worst-case scenario given the unpredictability of coronavirus and how long it may take to tackle it. The pessimistic view is that no football can resume until October, seven months after the last round of matches.