So when’s football coming back?
Well, for weeks we’ve had idle speculation about if and how and when football might return. There have been numerous permutations, variations and suggestions on restarting the top-flight leagues. And finally, the Premier League is set to start again on 17 June, with a view to completing the season by 25 July. The FA Cup Final is set to be played on 1 August.
But what about the Championship?
Training resumed on Monday 25 May after the English Football League (EFL) provided clubs with updated and finalised Return to Training Protocols (RTT). Essentially, this first stage is socially-distanced training where players observe a minimum distance of two metres with strict guidelines on testing, isolation and generally avoiding contact with anything apart from a football.
What about players’ health?
The EFL says: ‘The health, wellbeing and safety of EFL players, managers and staff has been at the forefront of the League’s discussions, scenario planning and decision making throughout this process and we will continue to consult with medical experts to ensure this is maintained as circumstances evolve.’
And the testing?
After 1,017 coronavirus tests over 72 hours, just two returned positive. The EFL provided no details but Hull City revealed the two were members of their staff and now isolating. The second round of testing of 1,030 players and staff saw three positive results. Two Fulham players and Blackburn Rover’s Elliott Benn were named, and again are isolating. Testing will continue to take place twice a week.
And what about proper training?
According to the Daily Mail, new guidance from the EFL will see phase two training begin next week ahead of fixtures resuming over the weekend of 20 June. Charlton Athletic’s director of football Steve Gallen told The Athletic: “It looks like it’s going to be four weeks of training. You would normally do five or six weeks in pre-season. Three weeks did seem a little bit too tight, especially with the first week being non-contact.
“But it looks like it’s going to be four weeks now and I think everyone agrees we can manage alright on four weeks. First week: non-contact. Second week: we’ll go back to contact. Third week: you’ll do more tactical stuff. And the fourth week: preparing for matches as well as physical training, like you’d normally do during the season.”
But what next?
A vote next week will see clubs needing a majority of 51% to curtail the season, which means resumption of the season is likely but not guaranteed. Hull City have already expressed their reservations but are believed to be in the minority. Should the season be curtailed then the table would be decided on an unweighted PPG basis with just the play-off games remaining — involving Nottingham Forest as well as Fulham, Brentford and Preston North End.
Points per game. The unweighted framework averages points from games played and applies it to the remaining fixtures. Which essentially means the table remains as it is.
According to The Athletic, ‘several clubs [are] considering legal action against the English Football League if they are relegated this season but Birmingham City, Derby County or Sheffield Wednesday are allowed to start next season in the Championship on minus points because of financial fair play (FFP) sanctions.’
They’re reopening on Monday. Not sure why you’re asking about sofas though.
What’s this talk of neutral grounds?
Nothing’s confirmed yet but ‘high-risk’ games could see clubs playing at neutral grounds. Promotion hopefuls West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United seem to be most likely to be affected but decisions will be made by clubs, local safety advisory groups and police.
And it’s behind closed doors anyway?
Obviously. All remaining 92 Premier League games will be televised (Sky Sports, BT Sport, Amazon Prime and BBC) and broadcasters will no doubt make an announcement once Championship fixtures are finalised. There’s even talk of artificial crowd noise.
What games do we have left?
Nine in the Championship, with Sheffield Wednesday (A), Huddersfield Town (H), Bristol City (H), Derby County (A), Fulham (H), Preston North End (A), Swansea City (H), Barnsley (A) and Stoke City (H).
And what about contracts that expire on 30 June?
Michael Dawson, Ben Watson and Sammy Amoebi all see their deals expire at the end of June. I think we can be confident there will be an extension of some sort for all three. Aro Muric is heading back to Manchester City, which leaves loanees Adama Diakhaby, Alfa Semedo and John Bostock ,who will likely stay for the time being.
So, in summary?
Season to resume on 20 June. Probably. Nine games left. Plus play-off semi-finals and final. All behind closed doors, all televised. Unless something changes, which keeps happening.