The 20/19/20 Premier League season continues to edge ever closer, but a number of hurdles must be overcome – as has been the case for a very long time now.
Teams are currently still in ‘phase one’, but teams will meet on Wednesday to vote on whether they would like to return to contact training in what would be the next step towards the resumption of the campaign.
Ahead of that, here is the latest on Project Restart this Tuesday…
A number of players and indeed members of staff at clubs have, understandably, voiced their concerns regarding Project Restart, and the speed at which decisions are being made. Teams will vote on Wednesday whether to return to contact training, and The Times report that players are ‘resigned’ to clubs giving the all-clear for contact training to resume.
This is despite the fact that a number of players still have major concerns. It is said that club captains and player representatives will discuss with Premier League officials the concerns of the players on Tuesday, and these concerns will try to be addressed.
The threat of the coronavirus to players from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds will also be raised. The deputy chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association has claimed that there are ‘genuine concerns’ regarding the impact of COVID-19 on people from varying backgrounds.
It isn’t just players who have concerns, as some clubs feel that the timescale ‘may be too tight’ for all questions to be answered. One notable question clubs are asking is whether matches would be allowed to be postponed should ‘several’ first-team players need to isolate if they were to test positive for the virus.
Another major issue for both players and clubs is the current lack of clarity regarding self-isolation and contact training. If a player involved in contact training were to test positive, they would have to isolate, but it is currently unclear whether the rest of the squad would also have to isolate.
A meeting will also be held on Thursday to discuss when the season can resume (most likely to be 26 June), as well as a fixture schedule.
While The Times state that contact training could resume this week should clubs vote in favour of ‘phase two’ being implemented, The Mirror claim that it could begin as early as Thursday. And this is because of the assurances a large number of players have received from medical experts.
There was a key conference call last Friday which has given players the confidence that it can be safe to return to some form of normal training. Premier League officials were in the call, along with the PFA, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, Watford’s Troy Deeney, Ian Wright and others. The risk of COVID-19 to BAME players was discussed, and it is said the meeting went ‘well’.
The fact that the Bundesliga in Germany is back underway is also said to have given players the reassurance they needed to believe the season can resume in England. This isn’t to say that there aren’t still many unanswered questions, however.
The Premier League wish to restart the campaign on 12 June, while players and clubs feel this is too soon and will look to push for a 26 June return. However, the Mirror note that a ‘fair compromise’ would be 19 June.
Sky Sports’ Geraint Hughes has revealed that the Premier League vote on Wednesday regarding ‘phase two’ will require at least 14 clubs to vote in favour for contact training to resume.
Elsewhere, Hughes also notes that should contact training be allowed, it will only initially start with players training in small groups of two or three, while they will also be allowed to share some equipment. However, over time, the group size will be increased from between four to 12 players, as the resumption of the season edges closer.
The coronavirus has had a major impact on every club in world football, but it is teams in lower divisions that continue to struggle most financially during this crisis. The Daily Mail now report that the EFL has formulated a plan to resolve the current issue of whether the 2019/20 season can be completed.
Clubs have been sent the plans, and have until Monday to provide feedback. The document states that the EFL campaign can be completed in two different ways. First would be to play the remaining games. But if this proves too challenging, the alternative would be an unweighted points-per-game scenario.
In the case of the latter, automatic promotion and relegation would apply, but the play-offs for the final space would still take place. Clubs will vote on Monday on whether to allow the required regulation changes in order for the EFL to implement the plans stated in their document. The Daily Mail note that, currently, the change is ‘likely’ to be approved.
Another vote will then follow on whether to finish the season or use the points-per-game method to decide each season. The majority of Championship clubs are said to be keen on completing the current campaign, but it is far from clear which way clubs in League One will vote.
As for League Two, most clubs wish to conclude the season immediately, meaning Crewe, Swindon and Plymouth will be promoted automatically, while Stevenage and Morecambe would be relegated. The Daily Mail add that due to this, the four teams in the play-off places will soon need to return to training, with the first leg of the semi-finals potentially taking place on 16 June. The final could be played on 30 June.