Fans given boost for 2019-20 Premier League season to finish free-to-air

The Premier League completed stage one of ‘Project Restart’ on Monday when clubs and officials agreed for players to return to small group training from this week.

Results of 19 clubs’ coronavirus test results were then released the following day, with only six players and staff across three clubs testing positive.

Germany’s Bundesliga have led the way in the whole thing as their top two divisions returned this past weekend after a two-month layoff, with football being suspended in mid-March, similar to England.

Players were back in training for five weeks before the league’s resumption, of which the teams look far short of their best from the four matches I saw. This included Bayern Munich, who produced just two shots on target in their win over Union Berlin on Sunday, with the first of those being a penalty.

That will at least give English clubs a benchmark to work towards, particularly those involved in the battles for Champions League places and to avoid relegation.

12 June had originally been earmarked as a potential return date of the 2019-20 Premier League season but no date was discussed during Monday’s video conference. One would think that will be delayed a further week or two based on the Bundesliga’s time between returning to training and their first competitive fixture.

If, or more likely, when, the 2019-20 Premier League campaign restarts, fans have been given encouragement that some matches will be televised free-to-air, according to culture secretary Oliver Dowden.

Dowden believes the deal could be a “win-win situation” for both clubs and supporters, and is quoted by BT Sport as saying:

“Those discussions are ongoing. I am having productive discussions – a couple of weeks ago and now the latest ones with Premier League, the EFL and the FA.”

Sky and BT Sport currently have exclusive rights to show live Premier League games in the United Kingdom, but with the planned restart meaning matches would only be possible behind closed doors, talks have been ongoing over the possibility of widening the television access.

Currently, there is a Saturday blackout between 14:45 and 17:15 during the season, but the conclusion of the current season could provide an exception.

Oliver Dowden continued:

“I think that creates an opportunity for us to be able to get some sport, some Premier League free to air.

“I hope we can sort this out and also hope we can get more money going into the sport of football. I think we can find ourselves in a win-win situation.”

The next step for the 20 Premier League clubs is to get sign-off by Public Health England for contact training sessions. Currently, they are limited to non-contact in groups no bigger than five players and lasting no longer than 75 minutes.

Dowden concluded by saying:

“If we can do it safely, I’d like us to be able to get it up and running towards mid-June if that’s possible.”