Having decimated the European sporting calendar since mid-March, a potential flattening of the curve with regards to the ongoing coronavirus situation could see a return to Premier League action as soon as June 8.
The Times are reporting that behind the scenes the Government have been working on ‘Project Restart,’ which gives a return date of May 18 for training, with the potential start of competitive play in early June.
For that to happen, however, there are three crucial changes that need to be implemented in order for the project to become a success.
The first one is a move towards ‘approved stadiums.’ These would be neutral venues according to the The Times, with a vote taking place on May 1 to determine which stadiums would be earmarked under this policy.
Teams isolating in hotels for the final six weeks of the season might sound like an extreme measure, but that’s the second potential change according to the Daily Mirror.
“(There’s a) hotel plan, revealed in Mirror Sport last month, where players are put into lockdown in nominated hotels for up to six weeks while the fixture list is finished,” the outlet suggest.
“The home team will occupy one half of the hotel, the away team will then check in to play their game and that section of the hotel will be deep cleaned after they check out.”
In order for that particular measure to be a success every player will need to be tested regularly for the virus, and to that end, the availability of tests is crucial.
“The “return to play” protocol… still depends heavily on the availability of tests,” The Times confirm.
“At the moment the Premier League has not made any commitment beyond stating the need for screening and testing protocols on arrival at every game.
“Checks will also have to take place before teams and officials even leave for the stadium, with sterile environments created for travelling and a “sterile route” that enables personnel to transfer from transportation to the dressing room.”
The third and final change relates to substitutions.
According to The Sun, player safety fears could see the usual maximum amount of three subs per game increased to five.
“Premier League clubs are set to get the chance to make FIVE substitutes when the season can be resumed,” they note.
“Fears over player burn-out and injuries with remaining games crammed into a matter of five weeks or less will lead to the “temporary” Law change.”
Assuming that the June 8 start date can actually be met, and with no further delays envisaged, this would mean that the season would be set to finally finish on July 27.
Although some of the proposed measures might seem draconian to say the least, there remains a real need to return to some sort of normality, and if temporary pain for longer term gain is the only way to achieve the same, then surely that’s a price worth paying.