Coronavirus: Majority in favour of resuming Premier League and EFL seasons behind closed doors

Miguel Delaney, Tony Evans
Closeup view of Premier League football: Getty

Completing the 2019-20 season behind closed doors is still the “majority view” within both the Premier League and the EFL, a series of high-level sources have told The Independent.

It is also seen as the most viable current solution to the effect the Covid-19 crisis has had on football, and one the involved parties are most trying to work towards.

The Premier League, EFL and Professional Footballers’ Association have been in discussions over Thursday and Friday, with the primary emphasis of the talks being coronavirus’ economic impact on the game. A natural extension of that has been the fate of the season, especially since any decision could have huge financial consequences. There remains the possibility the bodies would have to pay hundreds of millions back to broadcasters, while “delayed income” is obviously seen as preferential to cancelled income.

This is why by far the most popular option is finishing the 2019-20 season, regardless of when that may be. It is similarly seen as fairer, and less subject to legal challenges, to just truncate the prospective 2020-21 campaign.

Alongside that, reports have emerged that some clubs are again pushing to have the season expunged.

This has been the view among a series of figures, and was reported by the Independent on 12 March, but an initial agreement to park such has moves has given way to disquiet over continuing the season amid a health crisis.

While the game has generally been unified on the issue so far, it is issues like this that have signalled the huge potential for bad-tempered infighting, and has already seen private accusations of “naked self interest”. A natural consequence of the season getting expunged would be everything going back to how it was at the start of 2019-20, from European places to promotion. This also leaves open the possibility of more legal challenges.

As it is, the “push is still for games behind closed doors” within government health guidelines, as the fairest and most viable option. Sources say that there has even been a shift among the PFA for this, especially as basic boredom sets in, and many players go from being concerned about their health to just wanting to play. The Independent has been told that clubs have given their squads individual fitness programmes designed to maintain physical condition, and so they can get up and running straight away for whenever the season comes back.

While this would be crucial to maintaining broadcasting contracts and ensuring under-pressure clubs have that income guaranteed, there are other motivations. Many in football have been told the government would back games “behind closed doors” within health and safety guidelines, as they feel it would restore a necessary element of normality to people’s lives in difficult times.

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