Premier League clubs to discuss 30 June as a deadline for 2019-20 campaign
Representatives from a number of Premier League clubs will discuss setting a definitive deadline for the current season to be finished at a meeting held on Friday.
At the moment, top-flight football in England - alongside the EFL and National League - is suspended indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic, with nobody knowing exactly when it will return.
With nine games still left to play for the majority of clubs in the Premier League, a resolution needs to be sought out if the 2019-20 campaign is to avoid being declared null and void.
It is unlikely that we will see the return of domestic action until the start of June at the very earliest, with games set to be played behind closed doors if football does return to protect the safety of everyone involved.
With Euro 2020 now postponed until next year, there is space in the calendar for the football season to be finalised throughout the summer. However, while there is hope that the campaign can be completed in the coming months, it is by no means a certainty at this point in time.
The biggest issue for clubs right now is how they resolve the problem of player contracts expiring on 30 June.
There are a number of top-flight players out of contract in the summer - notably the likes of Chelsea forward Willian and Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen - with each of their deals set to run out before the start of July.
If the season is to run beyond that expiry date (30 June), clubs will face the prospect of having to complete their campaign’s without key members of their squads, should they not be looking to offer those players a new deal.
Rolling contracts have been mooted as one solution to combat this problem, however players would not be legally obligated to sign them, leaving further question marks surrounding this unprecedented situation.
There is now a growing feeling that 30 June has to be the Premier League’s final day, regardless of what state it is in at that point.
This would mean that all contractual complications are avoided, and also ensures that there is ample time between the end of the current campaign and the start of next - scheduled for the beginning of August.
However, this could only realistically be achieved if games are allowed to be played - behind closed doors - by the end of May, which seems extremely ambitious.
In order to finalise the campaign by 30 June, there needs to be a minimum of five weekend’s available for clubs to play out half of their remaining fixtures. The other four/five games would be completed during the respective midweek’s between the end of May and the end of June, with the Premier League’s hypothetical final day taking place on Tuesday 30 June.
Should the season be unable to recommence by 30 May or earlier, though, then this entire plan will be defunct.
The likelihood is that the Premier League’s return date will not come in May, but instead a date in early-to-mid June will be decided on, permitting the Government give it the green light.
In this instance, the season would be completed by the end of July and clubs would have to play out the remainder of their fixtures with a depleted squad if they are unable to resolve certain players’ contract situations. It is far from ideal, of course, but they will have to adapt to the circumstances.
The start of the 2020-21 campaign would also likely be delayed until mid-September to ensure that clubs are able to complete a full pre-season throughout August.
Where it leaves the resumption of European competitions still remains to be seen, with both the Champions League and Europa League only in their initial knockout phases.
Uefa are in constant talks regarding how they can possibly finish both competitions in time, with the idea of one-legged fixtures instead of two - held in neutral venues - in their respective next rounds (quarter-finals for UCL & last-16 for UEL) being mentioned as a possible solution, but even that seems unlikely given the lack of time available.
No decisions are expected to be ratified by the Premier League on Friday, they are merely topics for discussion at this point as executives try to establish some form of clarity on the matter.
Resuming and finishing the Premier League campaign, all before the start of July, seems like a pipe dream at the moment considering the amount of uncertainty which still surrounds football at all levels across the country.
For the dozens of players who find themselves out of contract in June, the situation is still firmly unclear - for both themselves and their clubs.
That is something which will have to evolve as and when more information regarding the Premier League’s return date is made available; until then, frustratingly, it remains nothing more than a waiting game.