Premier League Matches Will Be Played Without Fans at Neutral Sites
Premier League clubs met via video conference on Friday to discuss proposals for resuming the 2019-20 season. The league has been shut down since March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Among the conclusions reached by the league's 20 clubs is that the remaining games must be played without fans and at neutral sites.
The plan to restart the league -- the aptly-named Project Restart -- would still need to be approved by the British government. The proposal insists that all 92 remaining matches must be played. They would be contested without fans and at neutral sites to help avoid the crush of fans potentially gathering outside of venues during matches. Potential neutral sites would include Wembley Stadium, some current Premier League stadiums and potentially others. Stadiums would be selected by their ability to ensure social distancing between players and other essential staff.
The EPL has set a May 8 date for a vote on whether to resume the season, with an eye towards playing fixtures beginning in early June. That target is feasible only if the U.K. government relaxes its lockdown measures soon.
While aspects of this plan make sense, the big issue here will be the league's players. As we discussed on Thursday, a growing number of Premier League stars are hesitant to restart the season. They feel there is no way to safely adhere to social distancing guidelines and play matches.
If the players aren't on board, the Premier League only has one real option and that's to cancel the rest of the season and name Liverpool champions.
There are a ton of moving parts with this proposal but it's worth noting that none of this matters if the government and the players aren't on board. Club officials are losing tons of money while the league sits idle, so of course they want to get back to playing matches. But that's only a small part of the equation.