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Premier League targets June 12 kick-off despite rising opposition

 

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Brighton and Hove Albion CEO and deputy chairman Paul Barber. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Brighton and Hove Albion CEO and deputy chairman Paul Barber. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Brighton and Hove Albion CEO and deputy chairman Paul Barber. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

The Premier League has been given a huge boost, with British government sources confirming that plans are on course for professional sports to return in the UK in June.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will reveal in Parliament today more details of his roadmap to exit lockdown, with a paper on elite sports due to be published tomorrow.

These will give the green light for professional sports to return next month, including the Premier League's planned resumption on June 12, subject to safety conditions being met and coronavirus infection rates not rising.

However, the go-ahead comes as up to eight top-flight clubs are expected to argue against the use of neutral venues and call for 'Project Restart' to be put back at a meeting today.

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Government guidance may weaken their resolve but it's understood that the bottom six clubs have been joined by two others, both significantly higher up the league, in opposition to the plans, with feelings running high after Brighton announced that a third player had tested positive for coronavirus and will have to go into 14-day isolation.

Rushed

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber is among a group of club officials who want to know what happens if a similar situation occurs when the Premier League resumes, and also what the plan would be for a second wave of the virus.

They will express their concern that football is being rushed back prematurely, putting health at risk, in what could be a highly charged meeting with the risk that it could erupt in civil war.

Responding to news of the unnamed Brighton player, Norwich City midfielder Todd Cantwell tweeted: "We are just people too."

Nevertheless, the Premier League is pushing ahead with its plans. Players are to resume training next Monday as part of a four-week period before matches begin again on June 12 or 13. The preparations will be closely controlled, with strict hygiene and social-distancing measures at training grounds and with games being played behind closed doors with as few as 300 people present.

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Although the issue of neutral venues - which has been insisted upon by the UK government so far - will not be put to a vote this week, it will be discussed following an update from officials. The plan is for eight to 10 stadiums to be selected, including Wembley, because they are regarded as the most secure, with no team playing at home.

There are suggestions that the dissident clubs will meet a strong reaction from those who have depicted them as self-interested saboteurs who simply want relegation to be scrapped.

The only vote today will, in line with Fifa's recommendation, be to extend player contracts which are due to run out on June 30, so that they can cover the rest of the season. It will need a majority of 14 clubs to approve the Premier League's plan and dissident clubs could use it as a protest vote, although that seems unlikely.

What will not be discussed is voiding relegation this season as a condition of playing the remaining 92 games. It was raised by one club at the previous Premier League meeting a week last Friday but was immediately shot down, although some clubs believe it should be on the agenda.

One senior club figure said: "We will play on, but if it is with neutral grounds, no crowds, some players refusing to play and others out of contract on June 30 then it should be with no relegation. All those factors distort the season."

Dismiss

Any attempt to completely dismiss Project Restart may lead to an open argument among the clubs, who have been respectful of each others' opinions in meetings so far.

The Premier League is expected to address unhappiness among clubs at the way it has handled the crisis and its lack of communication to fans. One topic for discussion is a "communications plan" to deal with the "central messaging" of Project Restart.

Clubs will also be presented with an update from the Club Broadcast Advisory Group, which will explain what broadcasters, such as Sky Sports, want for the season and what plans there are to televise the 45 games, from the remaining 92, which are not scheduled to be shown. It is expected all the games will not be shown with some free-to-air, on YouTube channels, which seems to be another government stipulation.

There will be a presentation by the Premier League of the risks involved in Project Restart - and what the alternatives are if the season cannot be played out. That will cover the financial implications, with £762 million at stake from the broadcasters, and also the "sporting integrity" of how to settle European places and relegation, with the English Football League and Football Association making it clear that they expect three clubs to go down. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]


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