The United Kingdom has authorized the Premier League and other major sporting events to return starting on June 1, provided the nation meets certain standards in its coronavirus response.
The UK government released a 60-page document titled Our Plan to Rebuild, which includes the return of sports in the second stage of a multipart plan.
Premier League Teams to Vote on Return
The 20 EPL clubs plan to vote on how to resume the 2019-20 season by next Monday. That could include the use of neutral venues, and won’t involve any fans attending games in the immediate future. Any agreement would require a supermajority of 14 votes from the 20 Premier League teams.
The UK government report details the difficulties of staging sporting events, and in particular, how difficult it will be to open stadiums to crowds anytime soon.
“Some venues which are, by design, crowded and where it may prove difficult to enact distancing may still not be able to reopen safely at this point, or may be able to open safely only in part,” the document reads, stating that such venues might only be able to fully open “significantly later.”
The EPL season halted with most players having completed 29 of a scheduled 38 matches. Liverpool had all but clinched the Premier League title as the Reds held a 25-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the table.
That makes restarting the league relatively unimportant in terms of crowning a champion. The English FA had already determined that nullifying the season wasn’t an option: in the worst-case scenario, teams would be ranked on a points-per-game basis, which wouldn’t do much to change the current table.
FA Says Relegation is Here to Stay
However, the league still has other issues to settle. European positions are up for grabs for several teams. Meanwhile, six clubs are battling to avoid relegation at the tail end of the table. The bottom three finishers normally fall to the second-tier Championship.
According to an NBC Sports report, a majority of the bottom six clubs have pushed the FA to take relegation off the table for this season during a recent conference call. Their key argument is that if the season ends in neutral stadiums, it will hurt the integrity of the league.
FA chairman Greg Clarke told clubs that the association won’t sanction a plan that doesn’t include the normal promotion and relegation system.
The Premier League won’t be the first major European soccer league to get back to play. Germany’s Bundesliga plans to restart play on May 16 after the German federal and state governments approved a return.
Events have already shown how flexible sports leagues will need to be as they return during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bundesliga 2 club Dynamo Dresden reported two new positive coronavirus tests among its players, requiring the entire team to go into a two-week quarantine. That means Dresden won’t be able to play its scheduled game against Hannover 96 on Sunday.