Questions the Premier League needs to answer to get Project Restart rolling

League meets on Monday in latest bid to get 2019/20 season up and running again

When do they need to decide about Project Restart?

Uefa has given European leagues a deadline of May 25 to say if they are restarting. The 2019/20 season must be finished by July 31. The provisional plan is to resume in June.

What is the Premier League’s position?

Officially, that everyone wants to restart if it is safe and appropriate. Unofficially, it is split, roughly between the top 14, who want to restart, and the bottom six, some of whom don’t and who claim others are siding with them.

Why the dispute?

The majority of clubs want to play. Their reasons have not changed. The Premier League faces a £1.137 billion (Dh5.2bn) loss if the season is not completed, plus clubs could be in breach of individual commercial contracts if games are not played. Thousands of jobs, directly and indirectly, depend on football being played. Meanwhile, there is no easy way of resolving issues like European qualification other than on the pitch.

Why neutral venues?

This is a condition of the police to stop fans congregating around home grounds. Mark Roberts, head of the UK’s football police, told complaining clubs to “get a grip” and accept it.

What do the gang of six want?

Self-interest is reigning. Among the gang of six, this looks less like a principled stand than an attempt to keep their share of next season’s television rights.

Can relegation be cancelled?

No, in short. It has not been discussed at previous Premier League meetings. Football League chairman Rick Parry warned it would lead to a “very messy” legal challenge if promotion from the Championship was abandoned. So, in theory, the bottom three should want to play to try and get out of trouble.

What about the next three?

Brighton & Hove Albion, West Ham United and Watford have emerged as the most implacable opponents of Project Restart. Brighton chief executive Paul Barber warned resuming football too soon could “cost lives”. But he had spent recent days arguing against neutral grounds. There is a feeling within many in the game that some clubs are doing anything to avoid playing again and are trying to find reasons not to.

What do they say?

“Clubs are concerned … about the devastating effects of playing in this kind of distorted nine-game mini-league,” said Watford chairman Scott Duxbury. “Is this fair? Does it have any semblance of sporting integrity? Of course not.” There is no doubt it will be different. Equally, circumstances mean it is impossible to stage football as it was two months ago. That may remain the case for a long time. So does the game remain on hold forever?

Are players happy to play again?

Some 500 players won’t agree on everything. Manuel Lanzini, Sergio Aguero and Glenn Murray are among those to voice worries. The majority are thought to be in favour, though clubs could allow some players to opt out. The league is working on detailed presentations to clubs and players about safety. Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish, an advocate of Project Restart, said plans would “render Premier League football … safer than a journey to the supermarket.” Club doctors raised some concerns last week, which will need to be addressed while one issue is that BAME people seem more susceptible to Covid-19.

What about testing – and will it come at the expense of the UK’s NHS and other key workers?

The Premier League is spending £4 million buying in tests privately so they will not be taking them from doctors or nurses.

How can anything change?

All plans – such as Fifa’s proposal to allow each team to use five substitutes – need a two-thirds majority, so 14 clubs. But if there is nothing that 14 clubs are in favour of, what happens?

Updated: May 10, 2020 04:45 PM


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