The English Premier League might be returning sooner than many imagined amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The league is in advanced stages in talks with the United Kingdom government to resume playing matches in June, according to the Mirror’s David Maddock. The report describes the status of the league’s plan as a “tentative green light.”
Such a green light is naturally dependent on the current situation improving. Government health officials are reportedly hopeful of the UK’s coronavirus peak coming in the next few weeks. If that happens, matches could reportedly begin under strict guidelines.
What would the Premier League’s coronavirus return look like?
The way such a return would reportedly look is not unlike the isolated camp plan floated a week ago. Matches would be played behind closed doors and under strict measures to ensure as sterile an environment as possible. That includes limiting players’ contact with the public.
Matches would be domestically broadcasted by Sky and BT through a free-to-air agreement.
An accord has been reportedly reached in principle to finish the Premier League season — all clubs have nine or 10 games remaining on the league schedule — if the country’s outlook improves as expected.
Obviously, that is a gargantuan “if.”
The Premier League reportedly has no delusions that it could return if the situation only worsens between now and June. After all, United Kingdom coronavirus cases have more than doubled in the last week and even prime minister Boris Johnson had to be admitted to the hospital due to COVID-19.
Even if the situation improves, the strictest of plans can’t change the rules and operations of soccer games, where players will be making repeated contact with each other while television, coaching and support staff lurk in the near vicinity.
And all it would take to shut this entire thing down is one positive test. Just one, as we saw with Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert last month. There’s also the ethical question of how much medical resources the league should be allocated, as even routine player injuries would require medical attention at a time when the system would almost certainly still be facing significant stress.
What could this mean for U.S. sports and coronavirus?
If the Premier League stays on track for a June return, you can bet sports leagues in the United States will be paying attention.
The NBA is already considering a very similar plan of playing games in almost complete isolation, though it’s less clear when the league will be able to move forward. The United States leads the world in reported coronavirus cases, and individual states’ different responses to the coronavirus pandemic could make the virus much harder to shake in the coming months.
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