A meeting was held on April 17 by the main premier league clubs amid the uncertainty of the season as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Following that the Premier League announced it ‘will only restart when medical guidance allows’.
While the League is obviously unable to offer a date as to when that will be, many unanswered questions remain around when, and if so how, play must resume. A statement by the League back on April 3 showed understanding and consideration for the ongoing crisis: “In the face of substantial and continuing losses for the 2019/20 season since the suspension of matches began, and to protect employment throughout the professional game, Premier League clubs unanimously agreed to consult their players regarding a combination of conditional reductions and deferrals amounting to 30% of total annual remuneration. This guidance will be kept under constant review as circumstances change. The league will be in regular contact with the PFA, and the union will join a meeting which will be held tomorrow [April 4] between the league, players and club representatives.”
However, the financial implications of cancelling the league could be catastrophic — in the region of up to GBP 1 billion according to chief executive Richard Masters. Pulling the plug on the series at this stage will have a huge effect on broadcasting rights and contracts as big networks such as Sky and BT have already paid for a full season of rights despite only a quarter of the season having been played. This will mean the broadcasters will look to recoup millions as a result.
But the League seem determined to complete the current season and avoid it being written off completely. A new statement released on April 17th after the latest meeting read: “We are acutely aware of the distress COVID-19 is causing and our thoughts are with all those directly affected by the pandemic.In common with other businesses and industries, the Premier League and our clubs are working through complex planning scenarios. We are actively engaging with stakeholders, including broadcast partners, and our aim is to ensure we are in a position to resume playing when it is safe to do so and with the full support of the Government. The health and well-being of players, coaches, managers, club staff and supporters are our priority and the league will only restart when medical guidance allows. Today’s shareholders’ meeting provided an opportunity to discuss possible scheduling models. It remains our objective to complete the 2019-20 season but at this stage all dates are tentative while the impact of COVID-19 develops. In response to the pandemic, the Premier League, our clubs and players have provided vital support for communities and the NHS and will continue to do so after matches recommence.”
In a difficult time for the entire sporting world, alternative solutions are being explored. One such option would be to approach the League as a World Cup-style arrangement. This could mean teams meeting in neutral locations to play behind closed doors with only essential personnel allowed to attend. All 20 clubs are due to convene again by video conferencing call later this week to discuss this and other potential solutions for the future of the season.