The Premier League are reportedly set to ramp 'project restart' up a gear this week, and are said to have presented players with a plan to finish the season by 22 August.
The UK is still in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, and although restrictions have been lifted partially (and not at-all clearly) in England, the headache of when - or if - it will be safe to resume football remains prominent.
Thus far, there has been little in the way of a clear timeline, and while 12 June had been mooted as a potential return date, delays to those plans saw the mischievous L'Equipe run with the headline 'Retard Project' on Monday - 'retard' of course meaning 'late' in French.
Tomorrow’s L’Équipe has somewhat unfortunately elected to describe the Premier League’s attempts to return to action as the “Retard Project” - it’s supposed to be a play on words because “retard” means “late” & Project Restart appears to be behind schedule. pic.twitter.com/upE2Qox2AB— Get French Football News (@GFFN) May 17, 2020
Reports in the UK, however, have responded to that, and have set out a new timeline for the resumption of the league. The Mail, firstly, are claiming that the remainder of the season will now take place between 19 June and 22 August - a week later than had initially been pencilled in.
Those plans, they say, were presented to players in a Zoom call at the end of last week, and the general consensus was one of acceptance that the season will resume at some point. While there is significant opposition - from Watford boss Nigel Pearson and many others - resistance is not believed to be sufficient to derail the updated plans.
That report is taken one step further by The Telegraph, who say that clubs are to give the go ahead to a new two-phase project on Monday. They note the same two-month timescale for squeezing in the remaining nine full rounds of fixtures, and say that players could return to training on Tuesday with social distancing measures in place, after undergoing testing over the weekend.
Premier League clubs to give go ahead to Project Restart with five-week plan for resumption on June 19.— Telegraph Football (@TeleFootball) May 17, 2020
⚽Players expected to return to training on Tuesday
?Decision on neutral venues possible later this weekhttps://t.co/bygbzmYlbw
Phase one would last 14 days, before moving into phase two, which will see players return to full contact training for three weeks. If that 35 day plan can be completed with no unforeseen complications, it's believed that 19 June is a goer for the Premier League returning to TV screens.
There is a noted desire to accelerate plans now that the Bundesliga has resumed, and after Monday's vote, there could be another as soon as Friday on the use of neutral venues - though all 20 top flight clubs are said to be against that.
Interestingly, those reports reach a consensus on new demands from lead broadcasters Sky and BT, who are said to be seeking unprecedented levels of access to compensate for the reduced quality product.
"It would be a surprise if we didn't see some positive tests" @skysports_bryan looks at what could come from today's Premier League meeting, and how testing has begun at PL clubs— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) May 18, 2020
With empty stadiums making the sport a far less enticing prospect to viewers, it's believed the broadcasters want the right to show live footage from the dressing room, audio from the technical area, and half-time interviews with players and coaches.
Clubs are believed to be keen to keep both broadcasters sweet, but could still be due a £300m partial rebate due to three months with no product.
Both reports reiterate a desire from the government for the league to make some matches free to view for those without Sky or BT subscriptions.
For more from Robbie Copeland, follow him on Twitter!
Source : 90min