Premier League set to restart on 17 June

The Premier League is set to restart on 17 June with Aston Villa v Sheffield United and Manchester City v Arsenal, subject to government approval.

A full round of fixtures would then be played on the weekend of 19-21 June.

There are 92 matches still to play, and the first to take place will be those the four teams involved have in hand.

All matches will take place behind closed doors and will be broadcast live on Sky Sports, BT Sport, BBC Sport or Amazon Prime.

BBC Sport will air four live matches for the first time since the Premier League’s inception in 1992.

Meanwhile, Sky Sports will show 64 matches live and make 25 available free to air.

Safety guidelines are yet to be issued by the government and decisions will remain subject to the continuing fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Kick-off times will be as follows (all times BST):

  • Friday: 20:00
  • Saturday: 12:30, 15:00, 17:30 and 20:00
  • Sunday: 12:00, 14:00, 16:30 and 19:00
  • Monday: 20:00
  • Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday: 18:00 and 20:00

BBC Sport understands that clubs have agreed to a provisional end date of Saturday, 25 July.

It is also understood that finishing the season would require six weekends and three midweek rounds.

Liverpool sit 25 points clear at the top of the table while Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Norwich City are in the relegation places.

The Reds, chasing a first league title in 30 years, could clinch it with victory in their first game back should second-placed Manchester City lose to Arsenal.

“The Premier League and our clubs are proud to have incredibly passionate and loyal supporters,” Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said.

“It is important to ensure as many people as possible can watch the matches at home.”

Masters added that the resumption date would not be confirmed “until we have met all the safety requirements needed”.

It is understood that if the season progresses as planned, the £340m rebate to TV companies can be phased over a period of time.

However, if the games are not played, the full sum will be due in July.

Meanwhile on Friday morning the Football Association will announce proposed dates for the FA Cup quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.

And in terms of European competition, the last 16 second-leg matches in the Champions League and Europa League are set to be played between 6 and 8 August. Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Rangers and Wolves are all still involved. Uefa will discuss the plans at an executive committee meeting in June before a decision is made.

What is the background?

The Premier League was suspended on 13 March because of the pandemic and it will be 100 days after Leicester City’s 4-0 win over Aston Villa on 9 March that competition will – prospectively – resume.

Manchester City v Arsenal was already scheduled to be shown on Sky Sports, while Aston Villa v Sheffield United was not listed for live coverage when selections were announced in February.

Home and away matches look most likely for the vast majority of games – with a few high-profile games at neutral venues at the request of the police.

Clubs have expressed their opposition to the concept of using neutral grounds, including Brighton and West Ham.

On Wednesday, clubs unanimously voted to resume contact training, having started non-contact training last week.

So far 12 people have tested positive for coronavirus after 2,752 tests across the league.

Premier League players and staff will continue to be tested twice a week, with the capacity increased from 50 to 60 tests per club for the fourth round of testing.

Any players or staff to test positive must self-isolate for a period of seven days.

Plans for the third phase of Project Restart include a step towards normal training and build-up to competitive games.

What about the rest of Europe?

  • On Thursday Italy’s sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora confirmed that Serie A will return on 20 June after the league was suspended on 9 March. Juventus lead the table by a point with 12 rounds of matches remaining.
  • Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Saturday that La Liga can resume from 8 June. Barcelona lead Real Madrid by two points at the top with 11 rounds of matches to play.
  • The German Bundesliga season resumed on 16 May, becoming the first major league in Europe to return to competition. All matches are being played behind closed doors with Bayern Munich leading the way on 64 points.
  • The French Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 seasons will not resume, with Paris St-Germain being awarded the top-flight title.
  • On 25 April in the Netherlands, the Eredivisie was abandoned and Belgium’s Pro-League cancelled its season, although the decision to ratify this is still pending.
  • And on 18 May, Celtic were confirmed as Scottish champions for the ninth season in a row and Hearts relegated after the SPFL ended the season. The decision was taken at a board meeting after the 12 clubs agreed that completing the campaign was unfeasible.

‘Football’s back!’ – reaction

Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker: “It’s coming back, it’s coming back, it’s coming, football’s coming back!”

Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum: “WE. GO. AGAIN. We’ll miss having you with us at the stadiums, but we’ll do everything we can to make you proud.”

Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: “Positive to see further steps on the return of football today.

“I’ve been pushing for as many games as possible to be free to view and for the return of the top league to support the whole football family.”

@BBC

The Independent Observer

John Sakala is a Journalist yearning for independent journalism

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