- Premier League hoping to return to action in June
- Games will be held without supporters; clubs are looking into hosting games at a few select venues
- Liverpool hoping to win Premier League title for first time ever
A couple of weeks ago, the English Football League was reportedly considering the idea of returning to play in early-June. The coronavirus pandemic has caused the sports world to essentially shut down all over the world, but there now seems to finally be a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.
Over the weekend, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte gave Italian soccer teams the green light to return to training with hopes of restarting the season at some point in May. On Monday, the Independent detailed some of the restart proposals that the Premier League in England has been considering in recent days.
The Premier League is hopeful of restarting the season at some point in June. While it’s a given that games will take place without fans in front of empty stadiums, the league is also considering plans to play games at select neutral venues.
Any plan would need the support of the UK government, of course. That said, Premier League officials are actively debating a number of different proposals with regard to bringing the soccer season back in an attempt to finish the current season.
Officials from all 20 current Premier League clubs have participated in 3 separate video conference calls in recent weeks in order to discuss their options. There is some concern among club owners that there could be potential backlash if the Premier League returns to action using all 20 home stadiums. That would mean ambulance staff and additional medical personnel would be required at various locations all over the UK. Considering the country’s healthcare system needs all hands on deck in this time of crisis, playing games at a smaller number of venues is likely the smarter route.
The plans for a “festival of football” over the summer are beginning to take shape. There were still 92 total games left on the Premier League schedule at the time the league halted play in the middle of last month. If those games are not played, about £760 million worth of broadcast money could be lost. Sky Sports and BT Sport, the UK’s primary Premier League broadcast partners, have not yet committed to paying that amount of money unless the season resumes at some point.
Of course, the clubs will lose money if games are played without fans. The biggest clubs in the league, like Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, stand to lose as much as £3 million per game as a result of lost ticket and concession revenue.
However, broadcast revenue and sponsorship deals have become the primary source of income for Premier League teams for at least the last 10 years. Protecting the broadcast deals has been the most important factor in all discussions that have been held to this point.
Games at Neutral Venues
In Spain, Real Madrid have already decided to play any remaining home games at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium, which is used by their B team, as opposed to playing in the spacious Santiago Bernabeu stadium. Barcelona are considering playing games at their B team’s venue, as well.
English clubs are reportedly considering similar proposals. Manchester City are looking into playing at the 7,000-seat academy stadium right next to the Etihad training grounds. Wembley Stadium has been floated as a potential location for all London-based teams to play their home games.
All players would be based at their respective training grounds, and they would be tested for the virus upon their arrival. Different venues would be capable of hosting several different matches in a given day, as well. It is expected that teams may request a 3-to-4 week training period before games actually begin as a way of making sure the players are fit enough to return to action.
Liverpool Hoping for League Title
The Pro League in Belgium became the first major European league to cancel the remainder of its season as a result of the outbreak. Club Brugge, who were well on top of the table at the time play was halted, were awarded the title. However, the Eredivisie in the Netherlands cancelled the rest of its season without naming a champion. That means that Ajax and AZ Alkmaar, who were tied atop the table, will miss out on a title. The league will also not relegate any teams this season.
Returning to action is crucial for Liverpool, who were on the verge of winning the Premier League for the first time when the league shut down in March. The Reds have been desperate to win the English top flight for decades, and they were 25 points ahead of second-place Manchester City at the time of the stoppage. Liverpool are still just 12 points away from officially clinching the title.