The Premier League and the Football League have been postponed to April 30 at the earliest and the season extended indefinitely but it will not be declared null and void.
The game’s authorities, also including the FA, have reiterated their determination to ensure the season is played to its conclusion as the coronavirus outbreak continues to reshape the footballing calendar, which also means the Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship will not resume for another six weeks.
The leagues said they were determined to “maintain the integrity of each competition”, meaning that Liverpool remain on course to win the Premier League and issues such as promotion, relegation and Champions League qualification are set to be determined in normal fashion, rather than wiping out the season or taking the current positions as final standings.
The Premier League, with its huge broadcast revenues, could face a £750 million (Dh3.2bn) shortfall in its income if the campaign ended without any other games being played while there was the potential for legal challenges if places in the top flight or European football were determined by anything other than the normal method.
To complete the usual calendar, they have agreed to waive their usual commitment to finish every campaign by June 1 at the latest with the intention of staging games in the summer.
On Tuesday, Uefa postponed Euro 2020 for a year, thus freeing up June – and potentially July – for countries to complete their domestic leagues.
Football in England’s top four tiers had been postponed until April 3 last week, though it became increasingly apparent that it would not resume in two weeks’ time as much of Britain was shut down and now the Football League has said clubs will not be able to resume training until April 3.
The League Managers' Association and Professional Footballers' Association backed the decisions made at an emergency meeting, which was conducted via conference call.
The various bodies said in a joint statement: “We are united in our commitment to finding ways of resuming the 2019-20 football season and ensuring all domestic and European club league and cup matches are played as soon as it is safe and possible to do so.
“We have collectively supported UEFA in postponing EURO 2020 to create space in the calendar to ensure domestic and European club league and cup matches have an increased opportunity to be played and, in doing so, maintain the integrity of each competition.”
The authorities have not yet commented as to whether games will be played behind closed doors or if they may have to be staged at neutral venues. Covid-19 has hit London harder than the rest of the United Kingdom so far.
The Premier League and the Football League said they will continue to follow government advice, although the leagues were initially suspended before Boris Johnson’s administration advised against mass gatherings but after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was diagnosed with Covid-19.
No schedule has yet been announced for rearranged games, including the FA Cup final, but even if they do resume at the first possible opportunity, the fixture list could be packed.
Manchester City, who are still in the Champions League and the FA Cup, could have 19 games left to play and Manchester United, in both the Europa League and the FA Cup, could face a further 18 in all competitions.
Among the fixtures that had been scheduled for April, and which will now need to be rearranged, are Liverpool’s trip to Manchester City, which was due to be played on April 5 and which could have been the date when Jurgen Klopp’s side clinched their first league title for 29 years. The North London derby, which had been planned for April 26, is another high-profile match that is now definitely off.
The weekend of May 2, which is now the earliest the Premier League could restart, contains Arsenal’s meeting with Liverpool while Klopp’s team are due to host Chelsea the following week.
The Football League’s regular season had been due to end on the first weekend in May. Instead, the best-case scenario is that it stages the first of the nine remaining games each Championship club has, while some League One and League Two sides have 10 games left to play, plus potential play-offs.