With the Premier League season pushed back until at least April 30th and talk of playing into July and August if that’s what it takes, the return of football has seemed to slip further away over the past week as the extent of the coronavirus pandemic has become clear.
However, according to one league executive, the games will likely return before everything is entirely back to normal—albeit behind closed doors and without fans—with Southampton chief executive Martin Semmens suggesting an early May restart is a viable goal.
“When everybody is safe and we’re not using up NHS and police resources, the government would like us to get back to playing,” Semmens told the BBC over the weekend. “Because we are entertainment and a sign that the country is coming back to normal.
“If people are home for another month and Premier League football is 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 give people entertainment and show that we’re fighting back.”
The hope appears to be that once the virus has peaked, even if it’s not safe for public gatherings or life to entirely go back to normal, the league will be able to stage behind closed door matches—and if they can get the season done by the end of June, all the better.
Of course, despite the talk of giving people something to watch while they’re cooped up in their homes self-isolating, money is the key motivator—getting the season done before contracts tick over while avoiding the possibility of breaching television contracts.
“We hope to get the league done by the end of June,” the Southampton chief added. “As as you go past that date, there are legal challenges [and] making sure we don’t have a knock-on effect to other seasons and make football compromised for years to come.”