Premier League clubs have been told the
remaining matches of the 2019/20 season must be played at neutral
venues, the PA news agency understands.
QUIZ | Do you know which EPL clubs call these stadiums home?
The clubs were presented with the league's 'Project Restart' plans at
a meeting on Friday, and while a statement was issued reconfirming the
clubs' commitment to finishing the season, it is understood there is no
possibility that it can now finish on a home-and-away basis for safety
The restart plans were understood to have been well received, but
there remains opposition on competition and integrity grounds about the
idea of finishing the season at neutral venues.
PA understands the Premier League will look at using between eight
and 10 stadiums, with venues likely to be chosen for ease of ensuring
social distancing - which would appear to favour more out-of-town sites.
It is also understood the EFL is still intent on playing the
remainder of its campaigns behind closed doors at the regular venues,
but the governing body is aware current plans may need to change.
Clubs are expected to vote on the key principles of 'Project Restart'
some time after 7 May, when the Government must review the current UK
Brighton chief executive Paul Barber said on Thursday that the idea
of not playing matches home and away was a "further imperfection" on top
of games being behind closed doors.
The UK national football policing lead, Deputy Chief Constable Mark
Roberts of South Yorkshire Police, told the PA news agency on Wednesday
that playing all matches in the Premier League and EFL at their original
venues would "present challenges" for the emergency services at a time
when they are already stretched.
It is understood there were still no discussions around declaring the
season null and void or curtailing it, with France and Holland having
been forced to end their competitions because of government orders.
The league is working with the Government on the restart plans and
the first meeting took place on Friday between medical officials from
sports governing bodies, including the Premier League's Mark Gillett,
and representatives from Public Health England.
Return-to-training protocols, which include wearing face masks or
snoods, were presented to clubs. Teams will consult with playing and
management staff on the proposals, which are still subject to approval.
Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero is among players who have
expressed their concerns about returning to action in the midst of the
It is understood the league is still working towards a best-case
scenario of play being able to resume from the week beginning June 8.
The Bundesliga is in line to start before then, with German clubs
returning to training in recent weeks ahead of a potential mid-May
But the challenge of resuming matches during the pandemic was
highlighted by Cologne, who confirmed on Friday that three people at the
club had contracted Covid-19. Despite that, the club say "group
training can continue".
As well as returning to play, further discussions will also be
required on the subject of player status, particularly around temporary
contract extensions for individuals whose deals expire on June 30 and
those, such as Hakim Ziyech, whose registration starts on 1 July. Ziyech
will join Chelsea from Ajax, who play in a league which has already
been forced to end.
A statement from the Premier League on Friday afternoon read: "The
league and clubs are considering the first tentative moves forward and
will only return to training and playing with Government guidance, under
expert medical advice and after consultation with players and managers.
The league welcomed the creation of the Government medical working
group for a return of elite sport, which met for the first time this
"No decisions were taken at today's shareholders' meeting and clubs
exchanged views on the information provided regarding Project Restart.
It was agreed that the PFA, LMA, players and managers are key to this
process and will be further consulted.
"The clubs reconfirmed their commitment to finishing the 2019/20
season, maintaining integrity of the competition and welcomed the
The Premier League also confirmed that shareholders "unanimously
agreed to curtail the 2019/20 Academy Games Programme" to give staff and
The decision is "independent of any discussions regarding the
resumption of the 2019/20 campaign for first-team football" and means
the curtailment of all under-9 to under-16 matches, as well as the
under-18 and under-23 competitions.
Final league standings and outcomes for the season will be decided at a future date.
- TEAMtalk media