English Premier League keen to resume season behind closed doors

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020 00:00 |
Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero (left) vies for the ball with Manchester United defender Victor Lindelof during their derby last month. Photo/PD/FILE

London, Tuesday

The English Premier League is working on an ambitious plan to restart the season behind closed doors on the first weekend of May with a scheduled finish date of Sunday July 12.

The proposals, which will be discussed in detail on a conference call of the 20 clubs on Friday, would need to be endorsed by the Government, public health bodies and PFA.

But they are seen as the best way to mitigate the financial losses and potential legal threats caused by the coronavirus shutdown.

The Premier League’s best-case scenario of a May resumption stems largely from their obligations to and financial reliance on broadcasters, who have a watertight £3billion-a-year deal which expires on July 31, with next season’s deal kicking in the following day.

It is understood that under the terms of the TV contracts the cut-off point to finish this season is July 16, and if the campaign is not completed by that date Sky Sports, BT Sport and the international rights-holders could demand rebates totalling as much as £762 million.

The broadcasters are pushing the Premier League to provide clarity as soon as possible, as they are losing subscribers at a rapid rate and want to know when they can expect their schedules to return to normal.

During informal talks between club executives over the last few days, July 12 has emerged as the optimum finish date, and a restart at the beginning of May would build in the potential for more down-time if individual clubs are hit by more cases of the virus.

It remains unclear whether such a timetable is realistic, however, given that the deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries warned on Sunday that the country could remain in varying degrees of lockdown for up to six months.

A restart in May is seen as vital as that is when the clubs are due to receive their final tranche of television money for the season, without which many will struggle to pay the players’ wages. 

The £762 million of combined income under threat is not divided equally and would range from £57 million for the Premier League winners to £20 million for the team who finish bottom.

Ironically, the bigger clubs stand to lose more than usual this season if those payments are withheld following last year’s changes to the distribution of the overseas television deal, which, unlike the domestic deal, is no longer divided equally but determined by league position.   -Dailymail

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