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Premier League step up efforts to finish league behind closed doors as clubs warned stadiums could stay closed for up to a year


Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp with Mo Salah

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp with Mo Salah

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp with Mo Salah

English football chiefs are stepping up their efforts to restart matches in June - after being informed by UK government officials that they may not be able to open the doors to their stadiums for more than a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

While playing games behind closed doors for an extended period could have a devastating impact on clubs across England, Premier League chiefs believe their clubs can get through the biggest crisis in the game's history if they can resume the season in mid-June.

Plans to play the remaining matches of the campaign in a 60-day period with the players quarantined and regularly checked for the virus have been discussed with the UK government, who are hoping to lift some lockdown restrictions by the end of May.

With £750m of income from television deals resting on the current season finishing, clubs are being forced to accept that they might not have revenue from matchday income for the rest of 2020, with mass gatherings unlikely to be sanctioned until a vaccine is found.

Sky and BT Sport have held detailed discussions with the Premier League in recent weeks and while there is a suggestion the broadcasters could be willing to honour their contract for this season even if games are not played so long as a fresh television deal beyond the current agreement that ends in the summer of 2022 can be finalised, negotiations are continuing.

With Germany's Bundesliga and Spain's La Liga making tentative plans to return to action in late May or early June, clubs are preparing to return to training early next month and yet the prospect of playing in front of fans inside stadiums is unlikely until the autumn at the earliest.

The absence of matchday revenue will be a hammer blow to Premier League giants, yet it could signal disaster for lower league clubs who are already in danger of financial implosion.

"Clubs in League One and League Two are going to be in serious financial trouble if football doesn't resume in a few weeks and at Peterborough United, we are already feeling the pinch," said Peterborough United chairman Darragh MacAnthony. "We have already lost two home games, lost out on a TV game and that has probably cost us up to £200,000.

"It trickles down to all levels of the business. All clubs are selling season tickets for next season and that will be badly impacted and it just affects cashflow for everyone because we just don't know when next season will start and when this one will finish.

"If all clubs Football League can report back in May or June, so be it. We play our remaining games, play them over a four week period, push next season back by a month and that will be it. We just have to get on with it. The Euro 2020 finals have been pushed back and that window is there for us to play games in.

"If the only option is playing behind closed doors, then we will have to do that. We have to make sure the players are all clear of the virus by testing them in the run-up to games, we have to make sure no-one is there that will be at risk and we have to get our games played.

"Maybe we can stream games to the fans on our websites to get them involved and let's get it done. I want to remain positive that we can do this and we will do this.

"What is clear is we need help, all League One and League Two clubs will need help. So we need the EFL to speak to the Sky and get something moving.

"We have signed a new TV deal that starts next season and is worth £600m to the EFL clubs over the next five years. There is also Premier League solidarity money that comes to Football League clubs and we need to look at a way of making £600,000 available to each League One and League Two club now. That is workable and that's doable and the people from the EFL should be able to negotiate that."

Online Editors