A number of recent reports suggest that Premier League players have been told to be ready for training at the end of May.
According to ESPN sources, EFL games will be played from June 6 onwards after an initial three-week preseason starting on May 16, which fits the rough schedule mentioned above.
Football might be awakening from its slumber in the lower leagues of England, but with the 20 Premier League teams set to have a video conference on Friday, what’s the timeline looking like for a return to top flight action?
Premier League: The Official Statement
With no way to do business and an obvious non-essential status, football has abruptly fallen to a standstill after being shut down midway through March 2020.
The Premier League released a statement on April 5th where they discussed the possibility of a return within the next month or so;
“It was acknowledged that the Premier League will not resume at the beginning of May – and that the 2019/20 season will only return when it is safe and appropriate to do so.”
To that end, they’ve promised that “any return to play will only be with the full support of the Government and when medical guidance allows”.
Almost every source is indicating that the UK will be under a soft lockdown for at least three more weeks, so is there any chance that football will be back on the agenda in a month and a half?
Growing Unrest from Top to Bottom
As with the majority of businesses around the country, Premier League clubs are beginning to worry about their finances in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak. Players aren’t immune from issues either.
Arsenal recently asked their senior players to accept a 12.5% pay cut for the year, while “the club said that any player who was offered and signed a new deal in the future would – as a matter of course – be awarded the deducted balance in addition to his new salary.”
The squad resoundingly declined as a unit. Meanwhile, the club has promised to pay all staff until April 30, but security and cleaners who work at their stadiums have reportedly gone unpaid in the past month.
Take Mesut Ozil’s £350,000-a-week wages. It would cover the majority of their zero-hour contracted non-playing staff for a significant period of time. The players could help, but it’s really down to owners who agreed to the wages in the first place to step up.
It’s not like the club can cancel player’s contracts, while the majority of their first XI would have more than a few suitors sniffing around if the possibility of adding a Gunner or two on a free comes along in the near future.
Worse still, fans are forced to wait by the sidelines, so there’s growing unrest to start the league up again before the bubble bursts.
Will the Season Restart in June?
Players have been advised that they need to be ready for training, but it’s likely to be more of an insurance policy than a clear indication of when the league is going to begin again.
On the other hand, it’s further proof that there’s only so much strain the sport can take before the bubble gets close to bursting. As with Arsenal and the majority of Premier League teams, wages are probably too high to sustain for much longer with no games being played, and they’ll have lost out on heaps of revenue.
The virus is also likely to have a knock-on effect for the next transfer window, with clubs unwilling to spend, or unable to do so after taking a significant hit to the coffers since late February.
If reports are to be believed, EFL teams are already prepping to put an end to the 2019/20 season, and matches could be played behind closed doors in one proposed solution.
Is it worth bringing the football back if lives are at risk? Definitely not. But almost all parties want it to return, as long as there is a viable, safe way to do so.
The Return of the Premier League – Summary
Tentative steps are being taken across Europe as countries and cities attempt to restore some kind of order, but understandably, sport isn’t high on the list of priorities as thousands die across the continent each day.
You might have heard the news that a number of Bundesliga clubs returned to training on April 6, but they were limited to groups of five without any physical contact. It’s a world away from full training, and even further from the headaches that come with organising matches which are also supposed to be televised.
Italy is cited as an example following reports Serie A will test all players for the virus before restarting the season, but there’s no real timeline or deadline other than looking to the summer and hoping for the best.
Meanwhile, teams are going to be rusty when they return, although it has been a much-needed opportunity for batteries to be replenished after the never-ending slog of football over the past few years.
For now, we’re caught in the same old holding pattern, waiting for the go-ahead from the Government and their advisors who originally planned to risk 250,000 deaths by using mitigation rather than suppression as a tactic against the virus.
Will Premier League football be back this summer? Maybe. Hopefully. We’ll have to wait until the end of May at the earliest to find out, while it’s worth keeping an eye on any EFL developments in the meantime.