UK govt looking at June 1 for EPL's return

Ian McCullough
The Premier League could potentially return to action on June 1, according to UK government plans

The UK government has given a tentative green light for the Premier League to return to action from June 1.

In an address to the British public on Sunday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had indicated any return to professional sport was unlikely soon.

However, it emerged on Monday the speech was recorded before the publication of a 60-page document mapping out the country's strategy for recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic that's claimed over 30,000 lives.

It's led to strong criticism about confusion from the government after the document, entitled Our Chance to Rebuild, said sport could resume as part of the second stage of the plan if sufficient progress is made in limiting the spread of the virus.

Matches would also be played behind closed doors, as was the case when the Korean K League became the first competition to resume last Friday.

Representatives of the 20 Premier League clubs met on Monday to discuss the prospect of salvaging the 2019/20 season which has at least nine games left to play.

Runaway leaders Liverpool are 25 points clear of second placed Manchester City and need just two wins to seal a first top-flight title in 30 years.

But at the foot of the table the picture is far less clear with four points separating second-bottom Aston Villa and Brighton who sit in 15th spot.

Surviving in the Premier League is worth in excess of $A150 million to clubs and the idea of matches being completed at neutral venues has been floated - and dismissed by teams near the foot of the table.

Brighton, Norwich, West Ham, Villa and Watford - who occupy five of the bottom six places - have all publicly spoken out against such an option.

According to a report in the Times on Monday evening, only 12 of the 14 votes needed to get the decision over the line were received.

Doubts were reportedly expressed after it was pointed out football in Germany, which returns this weekend, will see matches played at home venues.

Premier League CEO Richard Masters has subsequently agreed to have another conversation with the government and the head of the UK football police unit, Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, to discuss alternative solutions.

"I think some of our clubs would argue that in relation to policing their own fans that they have a good relationship with them," Masters said.

"That they encourage their own fans not to turn up outside their home venues while they're playing behind closed doors, and they're in a better position to control that, but it's not a matter of convincing, this has to be a decision that's come to mutually."

Masters also revealed the none of the clubs have requested that relegation be scrapped.

"All I can go on is what we're discussing in our meetings," he said.

"You specifically asked about scrapping relegation while playing out the season, and that has never been raised in our formal meetings at all."

Roberts last week said neutral venues would be the only safe option if football was to return and accused clubs of having their priorities wrong.

"I get that in a football context these are all a big deal, but in the context where 30,000 people have died and the total is still going up then it's not such a big deal."

"But we have to remind ourselves that cannot be at the risk of putting a single further life at jeopardy."