A growing number of Premier League clubs are ready to abandon this season as the Government prepare to ban mass gatherings among a series of new measures to combat coronavirus that will make a quick resumption for sport almost impossible. Photo: Reuters
A growing number of Premier League clubs are ready to abandon this season as the Government prepare to ban mass gatherings among a series of new measures to combat coronavirus that will make a quick resumption for sport almost impossible. Photo: Reuters

Top clubs ready to abandon Premier League season

By Matt Hughes Time of article published Mar 16, 2020

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A growing number of Premier League clubs are ready to abandon this season as the Government prepare to ban mass gatherings among a series of new measures to combat coronavirus that will make a quick resumption for sport almost impossible.

Executives from all 20 clubs will hold talks via a conference call on Thursday to discuss the next steps following last week’s decision to suspend all football until April 3. Several clubs take the view that an early abandonment of the campaign is a price worth paying for greater certainty in the long term.

The financial and legal implications of such a step would be seismic, but many clubs feel they may have no option after receiving guidance that restrictions on crowds could be in place until the end of July.

Resuming the 2019-20 season after that point would be fraught with difficulties even if the clubs agreed to shorten the following campaign, not least as many player contracts run out on June 30. The Premier League’s official position is that they will seek to complete the season to preserve the competition’s integrity and protect their £3billion-a-year TV contracts, but they are expecting to hear a number of alternative views.

While there is little serious opposition to Liverpool being crowned champions if the season is abandoned, settling the relegation issue would be more controversial.

Options include relegating the current bottom three of Aston Villa, Bournemouth and Norwich, abandoning relegation this season, or moving to a 22-team Premier League next season, with no one going down and the Championship top two of West Bromwich Albion and Leeds being promoted.

All three scenarios would be bitterly contested by those disappointed, however, and could trigger legal action, while allocating Champions League places would also be problematic.

The Premier League, EFL and FA have held talks about staging games behind closed doors to finish the season and honour broadcasting contracts, but given the rapid spread of the virus over the past week, many clubs are questioning whether such a measure is possible or desirable.

There are also widespread concerns about the safety of players, many of whom have understandably expressed reluctance to play on.

Former England captain Wayne Rooney complained yesterday that players had been treated like guinea pigs, and even those clubs who have not implemented self-isolation measures have instructed the majority of staff to work from home.

With plans to cap crowds at 500, doubts have also been raised about whether it is possible to stage games with so few in attendance given the numbers required to facilitate broadcasting, catering and other health and safety measures.

There are also misgivings about clubs taking up valuable NHS resources such as ambulances, which would be required at every game.

Several clubs will push for a decision at this week’s meeting, rather than agreeing to return to action at an unspecified future date, as they crave certainty.

The transfer window is a big concern for many clubs, who will not countenance the market opening without them knowing what division they will be in next season.

Daily Mail

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