A Premier League club has signalled a belief the season will run into September by extending a player’s contract for a further three months.
It was an indication that the campaign will not be concluded by the end of June, when he would have been a free agent, and that it could be deep into the summer before the 2019-20 season reaches its belated conclusion.
The player, whose deal is up in three months’ time and who was unlikely to get a contract extension otherwise, has put pen to paper to keep him in their squad until September 30.
The Premier League is considering all options in an attempt to play the remaining 92 games of the campaign, which are worth about £750 million (Dh3.4 billion) in their broadcast rights deal.
All professional football in England has been postponed until April 30, although it is widely expected the delay will extend beyond that, and the Premier League is meeting on Friday to consider the situation. A later finish to the current campaign has the potential to impact upon the 2020-21 season, which is due to start on August 7.
Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin admitted the current season "would probably be lost" if it does not resume by the end of June, but the way the Premier League club has acted indicates England's top flight may last rather longer.
One reported proposal is that clubs will play games over the summer in isolated camps, staying in hotels away from their families, to try and reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus. That would allow broadcasters to televise matches, which has huge financial implications and could be seen as a boost to national morale at a point when much of normal life has been put on hold.
It is almost inevitable that if football is to resume, it will be behind closed doors, with the British government’s deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries saying on Sunday that coronavirus restrictions could last for six months.
As long as social distancing is enforced, it is hard to imagine that crowds would be permitted, while grounds including Watford's Vicarage Road and Manchester City's Etihad Stadium have been made available to the UK's National Health Service in the meantime.
However, the Premier League regards finishing the season as the best scenario. The majority of clubs have different reasons to complete the campaign, whether they are mid-table outfits who do not want to have to pay back millions of broadcast income or those who are trying to qualify for the Champions League.
Leading Premier League players with expiring contracts
West Ham vice-chair Karren Brady, who had initially called for the season to be "null and void", performed a U-turn in her Sun column on Saturday and said "we all want it [football] back in a hurry".
However, the sense that there will be no early resumption was underlined when Tottenham Hotspur allowed Steven Bergwijn and Heung-Min Son to return to their home countries, just as Chelsea had let Willian to go back to Brazil to see his family.
Willian is one of 66 Premier League players who are out of contract in the summer and who would then have been ineligible to play in July. Others include his Chelsea teammates Pedro and Olivier Giroud, Tottenham's Jan Vertonghen, Leicester captain Wes Morgan, Manchester City captain David Silva and Manchester United's on-loan forward Odion Ighalo.
One of the issues to resolve is when the transfer window opens and closes. Before the Covid-19 crisis, it was due to be open from July 1 to September 1 but this new contract is a sign that will change.
As it stands, a player under contract at one club in September could not then sign for another until January.