MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - England’s Premier League clubs will hold a video conference call between themselves on Thursday as they begin to sketch out a way to complete the suspended season and tackle the financial damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
While some clubs are reported to be urging a quick return and games being played behind closed doors, there have also been talks of cutting the season short, or even declaring it “null and void”. However, there are also powerful motives for completing the season in full.
“They want to get the games played if that is at all possible,” said one football industry source.
Last week all elite soccer matches in England, including the Premier League, Football League (EFL) and Women’s Super League (WSL), were suspended until April 4.
With non-league, youth and amateur football having also subsequently suspended play, the English game is now in a state of total shutdown.
On Tuesday, UEFA opted to postpone the scheduled Euro 2020 tournament by a year, creating a space for the club seasons across the continent to play on during the summer — if the situation with the virus allows.
A large question mark remains on when the season can resume but that will not stop clubs and officials from trying to come up with a plan for a best-case scenario.
Across Europe, other leagues are in the same process. The Italian league was saying on Wednesday that it is targeting a possible return in May, with the season running into June and possibly July.
The Premier League would likely also aim to for such a completion, allowing them to resolve the issues of promotion and relegation and European qualification without any wrangles.
It would also ensure they provided their broadcast partners, domestically and internationally, with a full and complete season in line with their contracts.
Player contracts, some of which end in June, could be an issue although world governing body FIFA has said it is looking into possible ‘dispensations’.
The problems facing Premier League clubs, who are among the rich elite of the world game, are minor compared to those facing lower division England Football League teams. They now face cash-flow problems with no ticket revenue.
On Wednesday, the EFL, representing the three divisions below the Premier League, said it is aiming to complete the current season and has put in place a 50 million pound ($57.92 million) fund to help with the impact of the coronavirus on clubs.
“Premier League clubs should be able sustain the drop in match-day revenue the but impact will be felt at the bottom end,” said football finance expert Rob Wilson of Sheffield Hallam University.
“For those clubs, 20% of which are very hand-to-mouth, playing behind closed-doors would be really damaging”.
Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar