As with many meetings, plans, and hopes during this Coronavirus pandemic, it seems clubs were hard pressed to agree on much that would help clear up the hazy, boarding on opaque, picture that is Project Restart.
Mentioned in this morning’s blog, clubs were scheduled to meet today in order to discuss how to go about moving forward with plans to resume the 2019/20 Premier League season in order to complete games and bring the season to a close.
After being given a boost from the UK government when their 50-page plan for reopening from lockdown called out permission for “cultural and sporting events” to take place behind closed doors starting after June 1, the picture of how that world would look got very hazy.
There are a lot of obstacles in the way, but after today’s meeting a clear point of contention for some clubs was the aspect of neutral venues. Leading that charge was many of the bottom six teams that were unwilling to give up home field advantage for their attempt to claw their way out of relegation.
Last week, Aston Villa’s CEO Christian Purslow said, “Personally, I am against it,” adding “We are having to make quite significant changes; it’s like the Grand National which we are restarting at Ascot rather than Aintree and the horses aren’t the same and if jockeys are sick they change as well.”
Given that the FA, according to The Independent’s Miguel Delaney, has told clubs the season must be completed on ‘sporting merit’ we can assume ‘null and void’ is off the table leaving games being played out or a system like points per game to decide how the table finishes, which makes Aston Villa’s stance understandable. If this is understood correctly, and the league is set on games being completed, they will need every advantage they can get to try to stay up.
According to ESPN, for the first time, clubs discussed with eachother ending the season in a manner that does not involve playing games out. Premier League chief Richard Master told the media “I’m happy to reveal it [curtailment of season] was discussed for the first time, but the contents of that discussion have to remain confidential. It’s still our aim to finish the season obviously, but it’s important to discuss all the options with our clubs. What I can say is that all of the talk was about finishing the season. No conclusions were reached on any other models.”
Why I bring up the fact that teams are upset about neutral venues and open to discussing other season-ending options is not only to give you a sense of what has happened, but mention that fact that this outcome is believed to have led the League to state their intents to lobby for the government to allow games be held at team’s home venues despite that going against people’s understanding. This shows the level of desire the league has to complete remaining games.
Obliviously, the confidentiality mentioned by Richard does not help us to understand extent of these conversations, but we can see the hurdle that neutral venues has become in this attempt to restart. Naturally, the teams that were against neutral venues were willing to waive their complaints with relegation was taken off the table and teams did not have to worry about that.
It is clear that games won’t be played until, at least, middle of June, if at all and there is a lot of talk or consideration from clubs about alternatives. At the end of the day, that is really all it is – talk. There is guaranteed to be a lot more of it before all of this is done and settled and the FA, Premiere League, and EFL will certainly have their say in this as well.
If you got a tad bit confused during that whirlwind above, trust me, I did a tiny bit as well. It is as more information emerges, clubs take their own stances driven by what benefits them, and the governing bodies weigh in it is becoming a lot to keep track of. Never mind, the addition of the Premier League Doctors questions, players we have yet to hear much from, or the PFA who I imagine will want to add their opinions to the foray.
This is all great except the clock is truly ticking on them to make a decision. As we have seen over time Holland, Belgium, and France have all ended their season and UEFA has requested that the Premier League inform them of their decision by May 25th. This does not leave a lot of time to make some pretty large decisions. In addition, these decisions don’t only need to be made for the sake of UEFA, but for clubs themselves they may have to extend the contracts of players to keep them an extra month or two.
There are a lot of moving pieces, god bless whoever is keeping track of it all and making sure it comes together at the same time, because with each day more and more seems to be heaped on top to increase the complexity and improbability of a clean finish. Tick tock, tick tock.
- Teams unhappy about neutral venues
- Attempts to be made to allow teams to play home and away
- Removing relegation is unlikely
- Null and void solution seems to be off the table
- Clubs discuss alternate ending options for the first time
- No games until at least June 1
Did I get it all?