The Premier League will ramp up their plans to finally resume the season this week ahead of a crunch shareholders’ meeting on Friday.
Dubbed ‘Project Restart’, the plans would see top-flight football return behind closed doors on June 8 following a three-month break because of the coronavirus crisis.
Officials hope that that the season can be concluded by the end of July, ensuring the title winners, European spots and relegation places are all decided as normal.
The Premier League are hoping to resume the season on June 8 after a three-month break
The plans would also mean that the Premier League avoid paying a huge rebate of £762million to Sky, BT and overseas TV broadcasters, which would have been due had the campaign not been finished.
The division was thrown into chaos on March 12 when Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for coronavirus. Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi was also diagnosed with the disease hours later.
Games due to be played over the weekend of March 14-15 were quickly postponed and there has now been no action since Leicester’s 4-0 victory over Aston Villa on March 9.
The vast majority of sport across the world has come to a standstill in a bid to prevent the spread of Covid-19, but there is a belief among Premier League chiefs that they can begin to safely host games again in less than six weeks.
It is hoped that ‘Project Restart’ will be rubber-stamped at Friday’s meeting, although a number of issues will need to be sorted in the coming weeks.
Here, Sportsmail takes a closer look at the top-flight’s blueprint for a return.
Fans will be unable to attend matches in a bid to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus
There are 92 Premier League matches left to played, with most clubs having nine fixtures to fulfill in order to complete the season.
It is believed that these could be played across 50 days, with the season kicking off again from the week beginning June 8, and being completed by July 27.
This period of action would also see the FA Cup played to a conclusion, with seven games – four quarter-finals, two semi-finals and the final – still to come.
The future of the Champions League and the Europa League is still up in the air, but both competitions will take a backseat so that domestic seasons can be finished first, with European finals potentially not taking place until the end of August.
Premier League clubs will complete the season across a 50-day period if plans are approved
The Premier League will need to get their plans for a June return signed-off by the Government in order to put them into practice.
However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to see the return of live sport as key to boosting the nation’s morale after what will be at least six weeks of lockdown.
The Government is beginning to work on an exit plan as the coronavirus death rate slows, with the public potentially being allowed to visit ‘bubbles’ of 10 people after more than a month separated from their loved ones.
Although fans will not be allowed to attend football matches – or any sport – for the foreseeable future, perhaps even until 2021, allowing games to be televised is seen as big step forward.
According to The Times, the Government has urged the top-flight and other major sports to step up their planning in a bid to ‘lift the national mood’.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to been keen for sport to return to give the UK a boost
A RETURN TO TRAINING
Arsenal became the first top-flight club to return to their training ground on Monday after 47 days of isolation in the wake of Arteta’s positive coronavirus test.
Each member of the Gunners’ squad had a pitch to themselves at London Colney in order to follow the strict social distancing guidelines which remain in place.
Their return to work was voluntary but most of the squad turned up. Players have to travel alone and only five are allowed to train at one time.
Tottenham returned to training on Tuesday, with West Ham and Brighton among the other clubs set to open their bases to players while enforcing the coronavirus protocols, which will be kept in place for some time.
Clubs believe they would need their players back in training for three weeks before resuming matches, which would mean all squads would need to be back by May 18.
Chelsea are expected to reopen their Cobham base – which underwent a deep clean after Hudson-Odoi’s diagnosis – at the start of May.
However, full contact training is still some way off and will only introduced when the Government has eased the lockdown rules in place for the whole country.
David Luiz arrives at Arsenal’s London Colney base as their stars returned to training
THE QUARANTINE ISSUE
A number of Premier League clubs could find themselves without players – and even managers – when they return to training in the coming weeks.
That’s because the Government are drawing up plans to force anyone returning to the UK from abroad to quarantine at home for two weeks.
The policy could prove a major headache for Manchester City, with Pep Guardiola currently in Barcelona following the death of his mother, Dolors, who died earlier this month after contracting coronavirus.
City stars including Gabriel Jesus, Ederson, Fernandinho, Rodri, Bernardo Silva and David Silva are also abroad after being given permission to travel by the club.
Pep Guardiola may be forced to quarantine for two weeks when he returns from Barcelona
The Government’s move comes after calls for tighter border controls during the coronavirus crisis. It will also include UK citizens returning from abroad.
Britain is one of the last countries to introduce the requirement, following examples set by Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and Greece.
Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo is in his home country of Portugal, as are some of his players, while Norwich boss Daniel Farke and Southampton’s Ralph Hasenhuttl are also abroad.
One Saints star and a number of Brighton players are also out of the country, according to The Times.
On Monday, Sportsmail revealed that the Premier League are facing a staggering £4million bill for coronavirus testing kits.
Medical chiefs from each of the Premier League’s 20 clubs held a video conference call on Saturday, when it was decided that players and essential staff should be tested for Covid-19 twice a week for the duration of the season.
The tests will start from the point when group training recommences, with each testing kit costing in the region of £150.
Members of staff deemed ‘essential’ will vary between clubs, but teams expect to administer up to 50 tests twice a week, which would cost a combined £300,000 for the 20 clubs. The Premier League, rather than the clubs, will pick up the bill.
Players and essential staff are set to be tested for Covid-19 twice a week under the proposals
Another issue to be decided at Friday’s shareholders meeting is the use of ‘approved stadiums’, with all 20 top-flight grounds unlikely to be used to finish the season.
Clubs would prefer to host games in Premier League stadiums, but it is understood they could be convinced to play at club training grounds and neutral venues such as England’s base, St George’s Park.
The Premier League will choose grounds which conform to hygiene standards in a bid to create as sterile an environment as possible.
There will be guidelines on where players get changed pre and post-match, while the customary pre-match handshake will be dropped.
While no fans will be allowed entry to games, it is expected than a minimum of 300 people will be needed for a fixture to take place.
The likes of Manchester United and City are likely to play their fixtures at ‘approved stadiums’
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.
Of that figure, 210 have been exactly accounted for, according to The Daily Telegraph, though the precise numbers of club directors, media, security, stewards, ground staff and scoreboard operators have yet to be worked out.
The additional 90-100 in attendance is based on estimates made in Germany, where the Bundesliga could resume on May 9 if given the green light by health authorities.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
A number of other initiatives are being considered in a bid to maintain the safety of players and staff involved in matches behind closed doors.
Clubs have discussed the possibility of putting up players into lockdown at hotels for six weeks while the season is completed, potentially keeping them away from their families in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.
Another measure could be to sterilise the balls used during matches before, during and after the action, which is a tactic LaLiga will use when they restart their season.
Also on the agenda is minimising contact between players at corners – another idea mooted in Spain last week – and banning spitting after one of UEFA’s chief medics urged officials to make it a bookable offence.
It has also been claimed that teams could be allowed to use five substitutes per game in a bid to deal with the congested fixture schedule, although they would be limited to three substitution windows in which to make the changes.
Tottenham goalkeeper spits out water from his bottle before a Premier League game this term