Chief Reporter, Sky Sports News
Premier League restart depends on 8-10 neutral venues; clubs still committed to finishing season
June 12 discussed as provisional return date; PL say training and playing will only happen "with Government guidance, under expert medical advice, and after consultation with players and managers"
Last Updated: 08/05/20 10:55am
Premier League clubs remain committed to finishing the 2019/20 season, but this will only be possible if 8-10 neutral venues are used to play the remaining fixtures.
That is considered the most appropriate number of venues that will be granted safety certificates (Sports Grounds Safety Authority) and police approval.
The 'Project Restart' document was top of the agenda in the latest conference call on Friday, which all 20 clubs attended.
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Under discussion was the resumption of behind-closed-doors matches in 'approved' stadiums or neutral venues, how players can return to full training, and what will need to happen inside each training ground in order for football to return.
June 12 was discussed as a potential return date but clubs will wait for the government to determine what happens next.
A Premier League statement read: "At a meeting of Premier League Shareholders today, clubs discussed possible steps towards planning to resume the 2019/20 season, when it is safe and appropriate to do so.
"It was reiterated that the thoughts of all are with those directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the Premier League's priority is the health and safety of players, coaches, managers, club staff, supporters and the wider community.
"The League and clubs are considering the first tentative moves forward and will only return to training and playing with Government guidance, under expert medical advice and after consultation with players and managers.
"The League welcomed the creation of the Government medical working group for a return of elite sport, which met for the first time this morning.
"No decisions were taken at today's Shareholders' meeting and clubs exchanged views on the information provided regarding Project Restart. It was agreed that the PFA, LMA, players and managers are key to this process and will be further consulted.
"The clubs reconfirmed their commitment to finishing the 2019/20 season, maintaining integrity of the competition and welcomed the Government's support."
Proposals in the 'Project Restart' document have been drafted by Premier League director of football Richard Garlick but a return to training will only happen with the agreement of the government.
Plans also include testing all players and officials 48 hours before returning to training and they will also be tested for potential respiratory problems associated with coronavirus.
Rules such as banning spitting at training grounds and wearing mouth-protective clothing like snood/masks at all times are also being considered.
Medical representatives from a range of different UK sports have met with the DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) on Friday as the government ramps up plans for a return to sport.
Football still has no control: 'Neutral venues' are a priority
Premier League clubs have remained committed to finishing the season since the competition was suspended on March 13.
Once again they stressed the importance of maintaining the "integrity" during a conference call that lasted around three-and-a-half hours.
In other words, curtailing this season remains off the table and there was no mention of 'null and void' during this latest meeting.
The Premier League explained to its clubs that any return will only be at neutral venues - it is not an option to play at every one of their 20 grounds.
A 'home' game is now considered unrealistic and will not happen. We have yet to receive information on specific neutral venues.
All 20 clubs spoke on the call - different clubs are in different situations and some of their concerns were discussed.
'Project Restart' has been 'well received', according to someone with knowledge of the talks, but it is not a final document and it is still being adapted to an ever-changing landscape.
Clubs know they need the full support of players, in particular, and they have agreed to hold further talks with players and managers.
Without their "key" support, it will be almost impossible to achieve any resumption of the domestic season.
The language of their latest statement is cautious as everybody considers the "first tentative moves forward".
Nobody wants to be seen to moving too quickly, and there has been a constant reminder that football will only return when it is "safe and appropriate" to do so.
Clubs will meet again after the government's review on Thursday, May 7, when it is expected to publish its next steps in this lockdown.
The meeting will take place on Friday, May 8, or early the following week.
By the end of next week, we should be a lot clearer whether the Premier League can indeed finish the remaining 92 games of this season.
UEFA has asked for details by May 25 and clubs have reiterated that their thoughts are with those directly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Neville: Take PL finish to virus-free nation
Gary Neville has suggested the idea of taking the Premier League abroad to a coronavirus-free quarantined environment to finish the season, as the UK environment isn't safe enough.
Neville is beginning to wonder whether the environment in the UK, where 26,771 people have died due to the virus according to Thursday's official figures, is safe enough to house competitive football, even behind closed doors.
He has suggested an alternative plan involving taking the final games to a country with sterile coronavirus conditions.
He said on The Football Show: "If the Premier League are really serious about delivering the matches that remain in a safe environment they would move it to the two or three spots that are within three or four hours of this country that are coronavirus free.
"They would take the Premier League players, broadcasters and media over, quarantine for a week or two and then deliver it in an environment that has proven it can handle this virus. There are a couple of hotspots in Europe that haven't got coronavirus which could handle the Premier League finishing.
"If they were serious about it and wanted to deliver it with a safe outcome, they could do that. In this country I'm not sure they can deliver it with the amount of coronavirus which is around, especially with the amount of movement of it out there and the logistic issues. I'm not sure they can deliver what they want to do."
With football suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, what is the current situation around Europe's top leagues?
- England - Premier League: The Premier League held further talks on Friday and reiterated its commitment to finish the 2019/20 season, but has not announced a date for clubs to return to training and said they will only do so under government guidance.
- England - EFL: The English Football League (EFL) has warned football cannot resume before adequate testing arrangements are in place for coronavirus.
- England - Non-League: National League clubs have voted in favour of ending the 2019/20 at its current point and cancelling all remaining fixtures.
- Scotland - Premiership: Clubs will meet on May 1 to discuss resumption plans, as well as potential league reconstruction.
- France - Ligue 1: PSG have been crowned champions after it was announced on April 30 that the season was over - but Lyon have raised the possibility of claiming damages after missing out on European qualification.
- Italy - Serie A: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has announced professional sports teams can resume training on May 18.
- Spain - La Liga: Health minister Salvador Illa says professional football in Spain is not likely to return before the summer