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Liverpool PL return latest as Masters issues Project Restart update

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Liverpool's bid for Premier League glory has been put on hold due to the coronavirus crisis but discussions on continuing the season remain ongoing.

Germany's Bundesliga returned last weekend and Spain's La Liga, as well as Italy's Serie A, hope to follow suit, but the Netherlands' Eredivisie has been declared null and void, while France's Ligue 1 has been cancelled.



There are a number of unanswered questions before football is played again and, due to this, there are also a wide number of reports.



Here, we will delve into the reports in a rolling piece that will be updated daily with all the latest suggestions and confirmed changes.



Friday May 22

Richard Masters has provided an update on when the Premier League could return.

Teams returned to training this week after group sessions under strict social-distancing measures were approved by clubs.

But there are still many questions still to be answered with a June 12 resumption date being eyed and confirmation still to come on whether clubs can play games at their own stadiums.

In an interview with BBC Sport, Premier League chief Masters admitted “curtailment is still a possibility” but said top-flight bosses are “as confident as we can be” over a return.

"We've taken the first step," he said.

"It's great for everybody, including the fans, to see our players back on the training ground."

Richard Masters, chief executive of the Premier League, addresses journalists during a media briefing (Image: Alex Morton/Getty Images for Premier League)

Masters warned the Premier League are likely to take a 'different approach' to the Bundesliga - which returned over the weekend - and warned flexibility would be required in case of any complications.

But he believes those complications won't come as a result of any misguided decisions over the return to training.

"We wouldn't have taken the first step to get back to training if we weren't convinced we had created a very safe environment for our players," he added.

"It is the first step and we have to be sure when we go to contact training we have completed those processes.

"We have done everything we possibly can to make return to training as safe as possible.

"We think it is safe to return. We have to respect players' decisions not to return to training. I would be comfortable to return to training."

Thursday May 21

Manchester United's financial results suggest Premier League clubs will have to stump up £300m between them to repay broadcasters.

The impact of coronavirus will see broadcasters lose between £300-£350m with TV companies' revenue set to fall significantly even if the season continues.

And, it seems, Premier League clubs will have to make up most of that lost money by repaying some of their annual TV payment.

Manchester United's latest results suggest each club will have to pay £15m back to broadcasters as part of a Premier League rebate. The money is due as part of Sky Sports and BT Sport missing out on coverage. Although those companies will get to show games if the season does resume, they are still set for a significant shortfall.

Old Trafford.

Clubs are now set to help bridge that gap by refunding some of the huge sums each club receives at the start of each season, or at least that's what Man United's accounts statement suggests.

The results read: "Broadcasting revenue for the quarter was £26.0 million, a decrease of £27.8 million, or 51.7%, over the prior year quarter, primarily due to an estimated £15.0m

Premier League rebate due to broadcasters, following delay and broadcast schedule changes to the 2019/20 football season, non-participation in the UEFA Champions League, and the impact of playing two fewer Premier League away games".

Clubs were warned of a possible rebate weeks ago amid the financial strain caused by coronavirus and Man United's statement appears to confirm the payment has indeed been demanded.

Wednesday May 20

The Premier League is set to be forced by the government into showing games live on television and on free-to-air channels at 3pm on Saturdays when the season resumes.

Live 3pm broadcasts had previously been subject to a UEFA black-out to protect clubs, but that has been lifted by the governing body due to the coronavirus crisis.

The Bundesliga was the first major league in Europe to return at the weekend, with all games, even those taking place during the normal black-out period, being shown live on BT Sport.

And Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has now said he wants the Premier League to use the 3pm slot to allow fans to watch some games live for free.

“We have to respect the existing rights that the broadcasters have but I do think we've actually got some flexibility if you look at Saturday afternoons,” Dowden said at the daily Covid-19 briefing.

“It has been the case that Premier League matches can't be broadcast by broadcasters, the idea was that people should not be able to watch them in the stadium, so they didn't want to compete (against the clubs)… clearly that won't be possible if we compete behind closed doors. I think that creates an opportunity for us to be able to get some sport, some Premier League free to air. Those discussions are on-going.”

At this moment in time, 47 of the remaining 92 Premier League matches are scheduled to be shown by Sky Sports and BT Sport, with kick-off times set to be staggered throughout the weekends with no games clashing.

Tuesday May 19

The Premier League has confirmed that six individuals tested this week have tested positive for coronavirus and will enter a seven day self-isolation period.

Clubs in the top-flight approved return to training protocols on Monday and regular testing for players and club staff plays a key-part in Project Restart plans, which aims for matches to resume in mid-June.

The first round of testing has taken place in recent days and it has been confirmed that six out of 748 tests came back positive.

Further testing will continue to take place and the Premier League will continue to publish the league-wide results, although information will not be provided on specific clubs or individuals.

Monday May 18

Liveroool have formally agreed to the first stage of Project Restart by agreeing to return to training this week.

All 20 top-flight clubs reconvened on Monday to discuss the latest plans to complete the 2019/20 season.

Whilst a clear format is yet to be agreed on how to finish the remaining 92 matches of the campaign, Premier League clubs have agreed for their players to return to training this week.

This is the first major breakthrough for Project Restart after weeks of discussions and several setbacks after opposition from select Premier League clubs.

A statement from the Premier League on Monday said: "Premier League Shareholders today voted unanimously to return to small-group training from tomorrow afternoon, the first step towards restarting the Premier League, when safe to do so.

"Step One of the Return to Training Protocol enables squads to train while maintaining social distancing. Contact training is not yet permitted.

"This first stage has been agreed in consultation with players, managers, Premier League club doctors, independent experts and the Government.

Strict medical protocols of the highest standard will ensure everyone returns to training in the safest environment possible.

"The health and wellbeing of all participants is the Premier League’s priority, and the safe return to training is a step-by-step process.

"Full consultation will now continue with players, managers, clubs, the PFA and LMA as protocols for full-contact training are developed."

Sunday May 17

Financial Fair Play rules will be adapted due to the impact of coronavirus.

That's according to UEFA chief Aleksander Ceferin, who says clubs across Europe will be aided in their attempts to deal with the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

Health remains at the forefront of everyone's mind as football tries to get back to some sort of normality.

But there is no doubting the financial impact the pandemic is likely to have on businesses across Europe and even the world.

And football clubs are far from immune to that damage with senior figures at some of the biggest clubs in the world warning of the inevitable changes.

Though, clubs will be helped by UEFA in their attempts to weather the storm of the financial crisis they potentially face.

UEFA chief Ceferin has confirmed changes will be made to the FFP system to aid clubs in any recovery.

"The situation is extraordinary and we will not pretend that it's not so we will adapt the Financial Fair Play system, but the final decision in which direction we will do it is not brought yet so yes we will adapt," he told beIN SPORTS.

"We think it's important to adapt it because the situation for the clubs is not easy and we are all in the same boat here, but it's again too soon to share details of how we will do it because the clubs are included in the conversation and the leagues are also included in the conversation."

Saturday May 16

The BBC could be handed free-to-air Premier League matches this season for the first time in the competition's history.

Since the launch of the Premier League, matches have been exclusively on pay-to-view TV channels such as Sky Sports.

However, in an unprecedented move, The Times report that the BBC could be handed some of the remaining 92 fixtures to air for free.

The proposal for playing the remaining 92 matches of the season in empty grounds would mean all the games televised.

Gary Lineker gave his verdict on the proposed plan to conclude the Championship season

Of these, 47 have already been allocated for TV coverage and the plan would mean the majority of the remaining 45 given to the main rights holder Sky, with BT Sport also getting some extra games, plus a few live matches being given to the BBC and Amazon, who are also rights holders.

The report states that government and broadcasting industry insiders have confirmed that the option of giving a handful of matches to the BBC is “very much on the table”.

The draft plan for televising games will be outlined to Premier League chairmen at a video-conference meeting of the top-flight clubs on Monday.

Of the 45 unallocated matches, 32 would go to Sky, eight to BT Sport and five split between the BBC and Amazon.

Friday May 15

The EFL have confirmed that league tables will be decided by an unweighted points-per-game system if the 2019/20 season is curtailed.

Championship clubs have reiterated their desire to finish the season but doubt remains in League One and League Two.

Clubs in the third and fourth tier of English football met on Friday to discuss plans for their campaign whilst Championship clubs met earlier this week.

Whilst the Premier League continue to hold discussions over completing the 2019/20 season behind closed doors, the financial implications for League Two clubs would be catastrophic due to their dependence on matchday revenue.

As a result, they voted on Friday to curtail their season but asked for relegation to be suspended, a proposal that the EFL is now considering.

In League One, there was no definite decision reached, with those at the top of the table wanting to continue the season, whilst those fighting relegation are less keen.

This is the first time English football has revealed any sort of framework for the league table if the season was curtailed.

It bodes well for Liverpool, who would be handed the league title if the Premier League followed the EFL's route, should the season not be completed.

Thursday May 14th

The government is 'opening the door' for football to return in England next month.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has said Thursday's meeting with the Football Association was 'positive' with plans to resume progressing.

He also added that plans should "include widening access for fans to view live coverage and ensure finances from the game's resumption supports the wider football family".

In a statement, Dowden said: "Today's positive meeting I hosted with the football authorities progressed plans for the resumption of the professional game in England.

"We all agreed that we will only go ahead if it is safe to do so and the health and welfare of players, coaches and staff comes first.

Britain's Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden arrives at 10 Downing Street in central London on May 13, 2020. - Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson began this week to relax some of lockdown measures in order to help the economy, despite the rising death toll, but he has also stressed that great caution is needed. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images) (Image: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

"The government is opening the door for competitive football to return safely in June.

"This should include widening access for fans to view live coverage and ensure finances from the game's resumption supports the wider football family.

"It is now up to the football authorities to agree and finalise the detail of their plans, and there is combined goodwill to achieve this for their fans, the football community and the nation as a whole.

"The Government and our medical experts will continue to offer guidance and support to the game ahead of any final decision which would put these plans into action."

Discussions remain ongoing between the Premier League and its clubs, likewise in the EFL.

No date has yet been agreed on when to return, but the top-flight are aiming to continue the current campaign in mid-June.

Meanwhile, the Bundesliga is set to return this weekend in Germany with a full schedule of games to be played behind closed doors.

Wednesday May 13th

Football finance expert Kieran Maguire has predicted that there will be significantly less spending in the next transfer window by Premier League clubs.

The 2019/20 season has been halted due to the coronavirus crisis and significant changes to the football landscape are anticipated, which is likely to impact the business in the transfer market when the window opens.

Spending in the Premier League has risen significantly in recent years but, with the economic effects of the pandemic, Maguire believes those numbers will drop in the current climate.

“I don’t think it will reflect particularly well if £80m, £90m or £100m transfers are taking place when other footballers are losing their jobs, where people are watching as fans can’t afford to watch them because they might have been furloughed or made redundant or things of that nature,” he told Liverpool.com.

Jurgen Klopp (Image: (Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images))

“Having said that, football has always been fairly resilient and lived in it’s own bubble. Apart from the very elite clubs, I think the transfer market will be quite subdued and the number of huge transfers are likely to be few and far between because those types of transfers will only arise if you’ve got a club who is in a very strong position as a buyer and a club who is in a very strong position as a seller, so we’re only talking between the elite clubs themselves.

“If you’ve got clubs further down the leagues, they’re going to have to take offers that they wouldn’t have particularly wanted to accept 12 months ago but for cash flow reasons, you might have had a player go for £60m 12 months ago who will be going for half of that this summer simply because those are market forces. If you try to demand your original asking price, the chances are the buying club will be able to find somebody else cheaper in Europe.”

Tuesday May 12th

Liverpool could be set to receive a significant boost if the Premier League season is completed as police have given their backing for matches to be played in the usual home and away format.

Neutral venues was widely opposed by Premier League clubs on Monday, who are keen to play in their own stadia, and a major boost has been received by key policing figures granting their approval.

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts of South Yorkshire Police, in a statement to the PA news agency, said: “Following a positive meeting between police, government and football last night, we will be jointly exploring a range of options to identify a way forward, which minimises any risks to public safety and unnecessary pressure on public services, but facilitates a sensible restart to the season, to support the economic and morale benefits associated with the sport.”

In addition, The Daily Mail reports that the prospect of finishing the season in their own stadiums is not out of the question, from a policing perspective.

The report claims that as long as clubs can provide assurances to their local constabularies that they will draft in enough stewarding resources to ensure that the two-metre social distancing guidelines are adhered to, completing the season on a home and away basis is not viewed as an insurmountable obstacle.

Should that be the case, and should the clubs be willing to foot the bill to pay for the officers required, playing matches at their original venues would be possible.

Monday May 11th

The UK Government has given the green light for elite sport to return behind closed doors in June, paving the way for the Premier League campaigned to be completed behind closed doors.

In the latest guidelines, it was stated that from June 1st broadcast sports can be played behind closed doors as long as measures are in place to avoid the risk of large-scale social gatherings.

A number of hurdles remain before a ball can be kicked though, as the Premier League's chief executive Richard Masters later revealed that every club in the division has opposed a plan to use neutral venues for matches.

The league will now speak to the government in an attempt to be granted the ability for matches to be played in home stadia but, given the risk of gatherings outside the stadium, it is a difficult maze to navigate.

At the latest meeting, Masters also confirmed that, for the first time, the possibility of the season being curtailed was discussed - although the intention is for the remaining 92 matches in the Premier League to be played.

Sunday May 10th

As many as eight Premier League clubs are set to oppose the use of neutral venues and are concerned that Project Restart is being pushed through too quickly.

The bottom six have been vocal with their objection to the plan of not using home stadia and the Telegraph reports that two more clubs, said to be significantly higher in the standings, have joined their stance.

This could lead to a highly-charged meeting on Monday, in the Premier League's latest shareholders videoconference, which follows the address from Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday.

It is expected that the Premier League will present their plans in the latest meeting, with the league then convening a week later for a vote - but at this stage it looks highly unlikely that a proposal to use neutral venues will go ahead.

92 matches in the top-flight still need to be played and neutral venues have been widely reported as being likely to be used, with uncertainty over the government would grant approval for the use of home stadia due to concerns of fans gathering outside of the venues.

A number of players have already expressed their concerns about returning to playing amid the health crisis, while club doctors have also voiced their issues with the proposals - showing the Premier League still has a number of hurdles to overcome.

Saturday May 9th

A working group has been set up by the Premier League to look at ways to enhance fans’ experience whilst watching games on TV.

It could be good news for Liverpool fans should they be resorted to watching the club's run-in to their first-ever Premier League title on the box.

Matches without supporters in attendance are seen as less attractive to viewers at home, with broadcasters concerned viewing figures could be down when football, as expected, returns behind closed doors.

Premier League clubs will hold a videoconference on Monday to discuss Project Restart in further detail, but no formal vote will take place on the proposal - though sides could be asked to approve some elements of the plans.

Naby Keita (Image: Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

And now in a further indication that football in the top-flight is set to return in June, a source close to the Premier League has confirmed to Liverpool.com that a working group has been set up by the Premier League with broadcasters and clubs to look at ways to enhance the TV product.

A number of ideas are being discussed by the group, but nothing, as of yet, has been officially signed off.

But two of the ideas believed to be under consideration are placing cameras in dressing rooms and conducting half-time interviews.

Only around half of the remaining 92 matches are set to be televised in the UK as it stands, though it is hoped that more games will be screened.

Senior government officials will hold a meeting with the Premier League next week and are "hopeful" a plan can be agreed for matches to return as it will be "good for the nation".


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