British Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has stated that it could soon be safe for the English Premier League to resume play amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking to radio station LBC, Dowden stated that a possible return could be sealed by June.
"We are hoping to get Premiership, Premier League, up and running from the middle of June, but clearly, in all of this, we’re going to be guided by the evidence and the public health. If we can be confident that we have met that and we are making good progress, then we would aim to do that”, the minister said.
The culture secretary also addressed the matter of whether the Championship, the second tier of English football, will be able to complete its season, and whether matches should be played behind closed doors.
"Well I imagine it would begin with the Premier League. I think the EFL might start with the Championship a little bit after that, but I should caution in all of this. We said that at the beginning, from the beginning of June would be the earliest. I think it’s more likely to be mid-June. It would be behind closed doors and we would only do it if it was safe to do so, so we are continuing those discussions but we are making good progress", Dowden told LBC.
Football in the UK has been suspended since March due to the ongoing threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic and Europe’s professional football associations have until 25 May to report to UEFA, the continent’s governing body, whether they intend to press on with their seasons.
The Netherlands, France, Belgium, and now Scotland have already thrown in the towel and ended their campaigns prematurely, whilst England, Spain, Italy, and Germany are pressing ahead with plans to resume play.
A particular sticking point in the discussions between teams in England’s top flight has been the proposal to host matches at neutral venues, which many sides argue would deprive them of the valuable home advantage and pose severe logistical problems.
Premier League clubs are set to vote on whether the move to use neutral grounds to see out the season should go ahead later this week, after the ballot was called off last week over fears that the proposal could be shot down.
If the suggestion is ruled out, then only a few options for concluding the campaign remain viable.
These include rendering the season “null and void”, calculating the final positions based on mathematical algorithms, or simply ending the league with the current standings in place.
The Scottish Premier League voted to end their season prematurely earlier today, whilst enforcing league positions as they stood at the time of its suspension.
The decision is likely to be challenged by the bottom club Hearts, who feel that they have been unfairly penalised given the exceptional circumstances, and similar legal challenges could be brought forward by Premier League sides should they also be demoted in a similar fashion.