Fri | Jul 3, 2020

EPL returns June 17, Serie A back on June 20

Published:Friday | May 29, 2020 | 12:24 AM
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (right) celebrates with teammate Sadio Mane after scoring his side’s opening goal during the English Premier League match against Bournemouth at Anfield Stadium in Liverpool, England, on Saturday, March 7.
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (right) celebrates with teammate Sadio Mane after scoring his side’s opening goal during the English Premier League match against Bournemouth at Anfield Stadium in Liverpool, England, on Saturday, March 7.

MANCHESTER, England (AP):

The Premier League plans to restart on June 17 after a 100-day shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with new staggered kick-off times to make sure every game can be shown on TV as fans are prevented from attending games.

The clubs agreed Thursday that the competition should resume with a Wednesday night double-header featuring Manchester City playing Arsenal and Aston Villa hosting Sheffield United – two games that were postponed during earlier rounds.

However, the league still needs formal approval from the government.

“This date cannot be confirmed until we have met all the safety requirements needed,” Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said, “as the health and welfare of all participants and supporters is our priority.”

After those make-up games are played, the 30th round will start on Friday, June 19 – if authorities approve safety plans.

“Positive to see further steps on the return of football today,” Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden tweeted. “We are still working on gov’t guidance before we green light sports’ return.”

It’s still unclear where games will be played when the league resumes. Police have said only neutral venues should be used over concerns fans would congregate outside, but that plan was opposed by the 20 clubs.

The Premier League agreed to a government request for all remaining 92 fixtures to be aired live in Britain. Only 200 of the 380 games each season are normally broadcast live domestically while all are available to view internationally.

FIRST TIME

For the first time since the Premier League launched in 1992, games will be shown live by free-to-air broadcaster BBC, which has four of the remaining games.

“At a time when sports fans across the country are in need of lift, this is very welcome news,” BBC director of sport Barbara Slater said.

Liverpool are on the verge of winning the Premier League, sitting 25 points in front with nine games remaining.

Meanwhile, Italy’s Serie A is set to resume on June 20.

Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora yesterday gave the league the all-clear to resume, although it will have to wait a week longer than it had initially hoped.

Spadafora held a meeting with Italian football authorities by videoconference after a medical protocol for matches was approved earlier yesterday.

“The meeting was very useful,” Spadafora said. “Now Italy is starting again and it is right that football starts again, too.

“If the curve changes and the league has to be stopped again, the Italian football federation has assured me that there exists a plan B – play-offs – and also a plan C – leaving the standings as they are.”

Serie A has been suspended since March 9, when the government ordered a nationwide lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The league’s 20 teams agreed earlier this month to resume competition on June 13 in empty stadiums. But, following a government decree days later banning sports until June 14, the Italian soccer federation swiftly announced that it would comply. However, it had hoped for special dispensation.

“The league will restart June 20,” Spadafora said. “There’s then the possibility that the Italian Cup semi-finals and final can be played on June 13 and 17.”

There are 12 rounds remaining in Serie A, plus four matches that were postponed from the 25th round.

Juventus, who are bidding for a record-extending ninth successive Serie A title, have a one-point advantage over Lazio. Third-place Inter Milan are nine points behind Juventus but have played a match fewer.