Football won’t be returning in England until at least the end of next month. That was the extent of a joint press release made by the Premier League, EFL, and the PFA after heads of all three organizations met today to discuss football’s plans during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The Premier League, EFL and PFA agreed that difficult decisions will have to be taken in order to mitigate the economic impact of the current suspension of professional football in England and agreed to work together to arrive at shared solutions.
The leagues will not recommence until 30 April at the earliest. They will only do so when it is safe and conditions allow.
Further meetings will take place next week with a view to formulating a joint plan to deal with the difficult circumstances facing the leagues, their clubs, players, staff and fans.
The decision was made to further delay the possible resumption of football, initially postponed through the first weekend of April, and leaves an opening for further delays, or more dramatic action to potentially end the season prematurely should conditions continue to worsen in the UK. The last time these organizations met there was near universal agreement to work towards finishing the season at all costs, regardless of how long a delay was needed.
The joint statement comes on the heels of a potentially explosive article by David Ornstein in The Athletic (£), which suggested more and more clubs are now advocating ending the premature end or voiding of the Premier League season on “moral grounds,” regardless of the cost.
One senior figure told The Athletic it is morally wrong for football to even be discussing playing behind closed doors while the coronavirus crisis is at its peak.
“You look at the people sitting around the Premier League table by Skype; their egos cannot sustain a mirror being held up to them,” they said. “The fact is they are not as important as a Tesco delivery driver at this time. We run a game. No more, no less. There is no place for sport at the moment.”
—David Ornstein, The Athletic
It appears all three parties are still working towards a resumption of football at some point later this spring after the coronavirus pandemic has peaked in the UK, even if those matches take place behind closed doors. Much of this is likely driven by the £765m that the Premier League would need to refund back to broadcasters as part of a breach of contract should they cancel the season early.
Notably, this statement did not include the FA, and there is at present no further information as to what will happen with the English women’s leagues. At present, all upcoming matches in the WSL and FAWC are postponed until further notice.
Currently, there are nearly 15,000 diagnosed cases of coronavirus in the United Kingdom, with the numbers rising steadily with each day.