The English Premier League stepped up planning on Friday to try to resume in neutral stadiums, holding separate talks with the government and its clubs to determine the necessary health measures and logistics.
During a conference call, the 20 clubs were said by the league to have expressed a determination to complete the season that has been suspended for almost two months during the pandemic.
But club executives were informed by the league that safety certificates were likely to be granted for only eight to 10 stadiums and no team would be able to play at home to prevent fans congregating outside. “Project Restart” has June 8 as the potential earliest date for games.
It means if Liverpool’s 30-year title drought ends — the team has a 25-point lead with nine games remaining — it will not happen in front of its own fans or at its Anfield stadium.
The league scheduled another all-clubs call next Friday, the day after the national lockdown currently expires and an exit strategy is due to be revealed that could pave the way to the government allowing sports to restart.
Decisions by the Dutch and French governments over the last week led to their soccer seasons ending. But British Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said after talks with the Premier League and other sports that he was working on plans that deliver for Britons who “desperately want sport back on.”
Some footballers returned to club training grounds this week for individual fitness work but group sessions could take place again only if strict social distancing is relaxed. That would require the Premier League to source tens of thousands of COVID-19 tests so players and coaches can be regularly checked around training and games.