Premier League season curtailment ‘possible’ if UK lockdown measures change, chief executive warns
Premier League chief Richard Masters says there is a “possibility” that the 2019-20 season could yet be curtailed as Leicester went back into lockdown on Monday night, but that there are “contingency plans” for trying to get it completed.
The competition are waiting to hear from government about next steps, but Masters said it is possible that Leicester City’s games could be moved to neutral venues or postponed. The Premier League chief was speaking at a DCMS hearing where a number of issues related to the game were discussed – and the possibility of more situations like that in Leicester.
As well as how the Premier League will proceed, Masters said that he hoped a decision on Newcastle United would be given “shortly”; that a solution has to be found to keep the EFL Cup running for the 2020-21 season; that the Premier League has committed £1m to testing for the WSL so that can get back up and running, amid wider questions related to the competition’s commitment to the wider game.
The Leicester situation poses the most immediate challenge to the Premier League, however, as it now puts the staging of games under threat.
Masters admitted that curtailment was “possible” but that the restart has proven they now have an operating model to run the game.
“If what is happening in Leicester – we’re waiting to hear – does affect the club’s ability to run home games, either the match on Saturday against Crystal Palace at 3pm or subsequent matches, we have a contingency to put those matches elsewhere or postpone them until a date it’s safe to do so,” Masters said. “Of course contingency plans are discussed as part of our overall planning.
“And just thinking about next season, we have broken the back if you like of the operating model of playing football matches behind closed doors, where the whole country, the whole economy if you like, is affected by Covid, and that has been the hardest part.”
Masters said that curtailment negotiations were left at a certain point, but can be picked back up. A points-per-game model is likeliest, and Liverpool would naturally still be champions.
Pressed on Newcastle United’s prospective takeover by a Saudi Arabian-led consortium, Masters said he hoped it could be concluded “shortly”.
“When they drag on, sometimes there;s a requirement for information,” he told Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliot of DCMS Committee.”It’s a relatively rare occurrence. I think it’s very difficult to keep a constant dialogue with fans about what’s an entirely confidential process.”
“There’s no timetable set as part of the rules,” he said. “There is no particular time frame that these things usually take. Some takeovers are straightforward and others aren’t.”