PL Backs ‘Project Restart’ But Concerns Over COVID-19 Remain

In an attempt to break the scheduling impasse and logistical difficulties of COVID-19, the Premier League has reportedly formed ‘Project Restart’ to retain its desired goal of concluding the football season 2019/2020.

This weekend the Sunday Times reported that the administration of the Premier League is planning a ‘league restart’ on Monday, June 8, with matchdays to be held at ‘select grounds’ behind closed doors, completing league proceedings by July 27.

The Premier League is looking at a seven-week window to complete the remaining 9 match-day schedule (92 games in total), thereby preventing a clash on Saturday 8 August with the start of a new season.

The preparations for Project Restart would need to be approved by the government’s public health experts, who are likely to recommend that all participants, administrative personnel and medical staff be screened and free from  COVID-19 symptoms.

A restart on June 8 was described as a crucial date for the Premier League, allocating ample time for clubs to train players for professional post-lockdown competitions.

The league will also have to educate clubs and stadium personnel for the challenges of playing in sterile conditions, ensuring safety in terms of player travel, injuries and ‘unavoidable touch.’

The quality of virus testing by the UK would be a vital factor when it comes to how the league secures its restart. The Sunday Times adds that no screening and monitoring procedures have yet been made by Premier League bosses to protect their expected plans.

Broadcasting will also play a vital role, as with Sky and BT Sport, the Premier League will have to resettle its disrupted programme schedule. The Premier League faces a £750 million legal battle with Sky and BT for failing to deliver on its current £3 billion broadcast rights deal if the season fails to end.

PM Boris Johnson’s office is said to support the revival plans of the Premier League as a ‘moral boost to the nation.’ Ministers asked broadcasters to air a range of matches without pay limits – something to which Sky and BT still have to reply.

Operating in unusual situations and tracking COVID-19 scenarios, Premier League Governance has formed a ‘working group’ with broader sports peers exploring how to effectively ‘return to play’ and place the least burden on UK emergency services.