After six weeks of no action, Premier League officials have drawn up plans to see the return of top-flight football in England.
Following Mikel Arteta’s positive coronavirus test on March 12, the Premier League came to an abrupt halt in a bid to stop the deadly virus’ spread with football fans craving football’s return after what seems like a lifetime in isolation.
Now, contingency plans to bring the beautiful game back to life are becoming a reality following a shift in stance by the government, with ministers recognising that an injection of positivity and hope is sorely needed.
Premier League officials have drawn up plans to see the return of top-flight football in England
While football will not start without the government’s approval and safety measures in place, meetings between sport officials and the country’s leaders are providing fans with a glimmer of hope.
The report suggests that proposals are ‘ramping up’ this week which will see social distancing enacted at games for players, media and staff while Covid-19 tests will need to be made readily available before games and take place behind closed doors.
Once the green light has been given, the return of the nation’s beloved sport can make its long-awaited return and the ball has already started to roll. With that being said, here is how the next few months will look as football gets back on track.
On Monday, April 27, Arsenal became the first club to return to training, signifying that sport, and society itself, is on the road to recovery in the midst of the global pandemic.
Arteta’s men will continue to obey government guidelines by travelling alone and training individually in a bid to build their fitness back up.
The north London club have 10 pitches at their London Colney training complex, which will allow them plenty of distance to train as a group but with enough space to reduce any sort of risk while adhering to social distancing rules.
Mikel Arteta’s (pictured March 10) Arsenal side returned to training on Monday, April 27
David Luiz (left) and Granit Xhaka (right) train in their Dubai training camp back in February
This move by the Gunners will likely create a ripple effect among other Premier League clubs, who will reopen their own training facilities following dialogue between clubs, league officials and government ministers.
Considering the intensity of the Premier League, players will need at least three weeks of full-contact training before participating in a competitive match to reduce the risk of serious injuries.
On May 1, Premier League shareholders are due to meet to discuss the legal minefield of player contracts which expire on June 30.
It has become a hot talking point over what should happen but the issue will likely be resolved weeks before the return of the Premier League.
Players like Jan Vertonghen, Willian and Adam Lallana are just a few names that have been left in limbo following the unprecedented postponement of the current campaign.
The transfer window will also be discussed considering the summer window usually opens after the end of the season in mid-May, with Sportsmail expect the opening date to be pushed back to late August at the earliest.
Premier League shareholders will meet in May to discuss the issue of players’ contracts that expire in June, with Willian (left) and Jan Vertonghen (right) both out of contract in the summer
Six days later, government lockdown measures are set to be relaxed following the completion of the first phase in the fight against the coronavirus.
A week later on Friday, May 15, will see the Premier League officials get together to confirm plans of English football’s top flight return.
The following Monday (May 18) will see the majority of Premier League clubs return to training while still adhering to social distancing rules. This date would create a three-week window to allow players to return to a level of match fitness before the campaign gets back up and running.
There have been reports that the Premier League could return on June 8, with Sportsmail revealing that clubs are starting to brief staff that they expect football to restart by June 13. Either way, that week is one to mark in the diary.
Matches will be played behind closed doors with the aim of playing the outstanding 92 games in an eight-week period, allowing a definitive conclusion to the season. The FA Cup will also make its return.
Games will also only take place in ‘approved stadiums’, which would mean that not all 20 Premier League grounds will be used, with clubs having to follow advice from the government, the police and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.
A minimum of 300 people will be needed for a Premier League fixture to take place behind closed doors, after an official estimate calculated how many will need to be inside each ground on matchday.
This includes 40 players, 32 coaching and medical staff from the two teams, 12 match officials, between six and eight doctors and medical personnel, three Premier League officials and 130 or more media personnel.
The Premier League is set to resume on June 8 with games to be played behind closed doors
July will be jam-packed with domestic action as the Premier League will aim to finish the outstanding nine or 10 games each team has left while there are seven outstanding FA Cup ties to be completed.
Officials have earmarked July 27 as the end of the domestic campaign, allowing champions to have their deserved spot in the limelight.
Liverpool are just two wins away from wrapping up their first-ever Premier League title and they could win it before the end of June.
The month of August will be the busiest its ever been, which will allow teams to have a one-week break before players return for pre-season training – which is expected to last between one and four weeks ahead of the 2020-21 season.
This season’s Champions League and Europa League campaigns are set to resume in August with all remaining ties to be completed in a condensed 23-day period.
Champions League final will take place on August 29 – weeks before start of the new season
However, should the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City make it through to the last eight or further, they will have to contend with the beginning of the new Premier League campaign, which is initially set to kick off on August 22 – seven days before the Champions League final in Istanbul.
While it is expected that the new campaign could start towards the back end of August, contingency plans are being drawn up for a later start date for the 2020-21 season.
The new season could begin on September 12 in a bid to reduce a hectic month of August, but this outcome could lead to shorter competitions in the long run.