‘PL football could resume before coronavirus restrictions are lifted’

Date published: Sunday 22nd March 2020 9:26

Southampton coronavirus

Southampton chief executive Martin Semmens insists everyone is hopeful of completing the Premier League season by the end of June, but stressed no one can be sure when football in this country will resume.

English football is currently suspended until April 30 due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the decision confirmed on Thursday after a meeting of the sport’s governing bodies.

No date for the Premier League or English Football League to resume is pencilled in, but one big issue is players who will be out of contract on June 30.

It has added to growing speculation everything will be done to complete the 2019-20 season by that point.

Saints CEO Semmens told BBC Radio Solent: “We hope to get the league done by the end of June and that would be easier for everybody.

“As soon as you go past that date there are then those legal challenges and issues that we have to fulfil.

“But if we end up playing until the 15th of July and you had to extend a players contract by two weeks, I just don’t think when you look at all the challenges the country is facing right now, to try and convince a player to play two more weeks football and get paid very nicely to do it before he moves to a new club, I don’t believe that will be a substantial challenge.

“The challenge is making sure we don’t have a knock-on effect into other seasons and make football compromised as the years go on.”

A number of discussions have taken place between Premier League clubs since top-flight football was stopped ahead of the weekend of March 14-16.

 

While this week Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted he hoped the tide could be turned against Covid-19 within 12 weeks, there can be no guarantee, but Semmens explained why parliament want sport to return.

He noted “at the right time and when everybody was safe” the Premier League suspension could be lifted – assuming football does not use up urgent NHS or police resources.

“When that moment has passed, the government would like us to get back to playing and they would like us to get back to playing because we are in entertainment and we would be a sign that the country is coming back to normal,” Semmens added.

“And if people are home for another month and there is a Premier League football game on the TV every day, that can only be a good thing.

“Not because we are more essential than the NHS, but because we can add something to the country to give people some entertainment and show we are fighting back and the country will survive this.”

Euro 2020 was postponed by 12 months on Tuesday, which opens the door for European leagues to complete this season in the summer.

“All we’ve got to do is say we all want to play in this window and play football games on a certain date, it is not actually as difficult as it sounds, that part of it,” Semmens said.

The Saints CEO stressed football’s importance dwindles to the health of the public and revealed the club had tried their best to reassure staff before he conceded the coronavirus outbreak would leave a lasting impact on the sport.

“In general there will be some knock-on effects to the transfer window, to budgets across Europe for buying players and all those relative areas of change, but for us as a business, our business model is not affected as long as we do continue to play football,” Semmens added.

 

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