UK Government: EPL Allowed to Restart in June Without Fans Amid COVID-19

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 11, 2020

NORWICH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 15: The Premier League logo on a flag during the Premier League match between Norwich City and Liverpool FC at Carrow Road on February 15, 2020 in Norwich, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

The English Premier League will be allowed to resume the 2019-20 season from June 1 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to ESPN.

A report Monday from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson states that "cultural and sporting events [can] take place behind closed doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact."

That permits the league to begin without spectators starting in June.

The Premier League's clubs will vote on an official return within the next few days.

France's Ligue 1 wiped out the remainder of the 2019-20 season in April and named Paris Saint-Germain the champions. The Bundesliga in Germany is set to return Saturday behind closed doors, while Spain's La Liga is planning a return in June.

Financial considerations were likely a determining factor for the Premier League in attempting to finish out the campaign rather than focus on 2020-21.

The Athletic reported in March that a failure to complete the season would constitute a breach of contract with its television partners, resulting in a £762 million hit.

Sam Wallace @SamWallaceTel

If the Premier League season is not completed, many clubs may not survive - and the financial aftershock will ripple downwards. The game has to try to restart https://t.co/4b4kiJ7m3f

The competition has been on hold since March 13. Leicester City defeated Aston Villa 4-0 in the last match played. Many have wondered about the fate of the 2019-20 campaign, particularly as it regards the state of the table.

Liverpool have a commanding lead in first place, but handing them the title in the same fashion as PSG would be a somewhat deflating outcome for supporters, who have waited 30 years to see their side win the league. Meanwhile, relegating Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Norwich City would be unfair since they wouldn't have had the luxury of a full season to retain their places in the Premier League.

BBC Sport's Simon Stone reported some clubs were expressing the belief that relegation should be eliminated if matches had to be staged in empty stadiums.

Brighton & Hove Albion chief executive Paul Barber was among those concerned about the adverse effect of losing any home-ground advantage.

"The disadvantages of us not playing the league's top teams in our home stadium and in familiar surroundings, even with 27,000 Albion fans very unlikely to be present at the Amex, are very obvious," Barber said.

West Ham United vice-chairman Karren Brady proposed in March to void the entire season, an idea that gained little traction.

She subsequently backtracked slightly on the position:

Lady Karren Brady @karren_brady

My point was safety of fans, players, staff come 1st & if the remaining games just cannot be played the only fair & reasonable thing is to declare season null and void. Who knows who would have gone down or come up if the PL/EFL games have not actually been played in full? 2/2 https://t.co/JTQukQv30Y

Still, there appeared to be little in the way of progress throughout spring.

The Premier League issued a statement April 5 to say it wouldn't kick off in early May and would "only return when it is safe and appropriate to do so." It added:

"The restart date is under constant review with all stakeholders, as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic develops and we work together through this very challenging time. The Premier League is working closely with the whole of professional football in this country, as well as with the Government, public agencies and other relevant stakeholders to ensure the game achieves a collaborative solution."

UEFA postponed Euro 2020 for one year, which opened up the summer months for domestic competitions to draw to a close.

The Mirror's David Maddock reported April 5 the Premier League had been in discussions with government officials about a returning in June. Games would be staged behind closed doors, and television partners would agree to broadcast more games to appease supporters.

Maddock also alluded to "extensive measures to keep the players in a sterile environment as much as possible, limiting contact with the wider public."

The domino effect of such a lengthy delay presents obvious logistical hurdles to resolve. ESPN FC's Mark Ogden reported clubs were concerned next season won't start until at least mid-September, which would require significant changes to the fixture calendar.

Ogden wrote the involved parties were hopeful of having a week or two between the end of this season and the start of the next one by late August or early September. In addition, games behind closed doors might have to be a reality for the entire 2020-21 campaign.

Monday's development represents a step toward the Premier League's return, yet the matter is far from resolved.