The Premier League is ready to return.
The Premier League and the teams that comprise it lose money every minute the ball is stopped. For this reason, several ideas have been worked on to be able to return to the activity as soon as possible, and it seems that finally, there is a clear plan, the Restart Project.
The restart project is a specific plan for the Premier League, but it has been worked together with representatives of the EFL and the FA to coordinate efforts and jointly restore normality to English soccer.
The restart project consists of playing the 92 pending Premier League matches behind closed doors, complying with strict health protocols overseen by medical officials. The activity would start on June 8 and would be played during the months of June and July to coincide with UEFA’s plan to hold the Champions League and Europa League in August. Since the matches will be played behind closed doors, fans will only be able to watch them on television, the problem is that in England, these matches are broadcast only by pay television systems. It is for this reason that the EFL has been in talks with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sports (DCMS) to enable the broadcast of some games on open television. This would prevent people from gathering in masses in houses, pubs, restaurants, and other places to watch games.
To meet the Project Restart schedule, clubs would have to return to group practice by May 18. Some clubs such as Arsenal, Brighton, and West Ham have already opened their training camps so that players can conduct individual sessions. But it will be until Friday, May 1, that the premier big clubs will meet to discuss their position on the Restart Project.
The Restart Project has already created controversy, as some disagree that soccer is given so much priority when the country has more urgent matters to attend to. One of those who spoke out against the project is Scott Duxbury, chief executive of Watford. Duxbury said: “Football, for me now, just needs to be put to one side, I feel uncomfortable at this stage even talking about football as a narrative, because there are people dying every day,”
Despite having detractors, it seems that the Restart Project is the fastest and most feasible way for soccer to return to its regular activity in England. Keep in mind that many clubs are feeling high financial pressure to sustain their players and their non-player staff. In fact, many teams have to cut salaries or put some staff on leave to give some oxygen to the club finances. For example, Aston Villa players agreed to redirect 25% of their salary to ease the club’s finances. For their part, the Arsenal players have agreed to a 12.5% reduction in their pay to help the club.
Throughout Europe, we have seen different approaches to deal with the suspension of the leagues. For example, in the Netherlands, the league was declared void after the federation, the players’ union and the clubs of the first division agreed not to give the title to no club. Ajax and AZ Alkmaar were tied for points at the top of the table with nine games to go when the league was interrupted.
The German Bundesliga is awaiting the go-ahead from the government so that the top clubs can restart activity on May 9. While in Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, Series A plans that players can return to individual training on May 4, and group training is scheduled to start on May 18.
We are eager to see the comeback of the Premier League.