Premier League return: Play can resume June 1 behind closed doors, says U.K. government

The Premier League looks set to return in June after the United Kingdom’s government gave the green light on Monday. Play could start June 1 in empty stadiums due to the coronavirus pandemic’s still consistent threat. U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson announced Monday that the government had a strategy as part of “Project Restart” to begin opening up the country, and that included “permitting cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed-doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact,” according to ESPN.

Premier League clubs are meeting on Monday to discuss their restart plans and other issues like player contracts, with some set to expire before the season likely concludes, according to Reuters.

Lockdown measures would be eased in the coming weeks, allowing the league to resume after being suspended since March 13. More than 200,000 people in the U.K. have tested positive for COVID-19, including Johnson, who tested positive last month. 

The league’s 20 teams are now set to vote on whether play should resume, while the third and fourth divisions will reportedly have their seasons axed. Premier League club Brighton announced this weekend that a third player had tested positive for COVID-19.

The Premier League has 92 games remaining to complete the season. The league was initially aiming to return by June 8, with the possibility of matches taking place at various neutral venues.  This new timeline could see them resume potentially a week earlier, with Liverpool on the brink of winning its first league title in 30 years. 

With some players having their contracts expire on June 30, the league has agreed to extend the deals until the end of the 2019-20 season, whenever that may be, according to The Independent.

If the Premier League returns, it would be the second major European league to do so. The Bundesliga officially returns this Saturday. France’s Ligue 1 had its season canceled after the country banned sporting events until September, while La Liga in Spain and Serie A in Italy remain hopeful to start play sometime next month with La Liga expected to resume from mid-to-late June.

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