The Premier League are again investigating playing games behind closed doors amid the Covid-19 crisis, in order to complete the season. It is hoped that could even happen as early as May, when the latest postponement set by Thursday’s meeting is set to end.
While there had previously been an acknowledgement that playing without fans present would be less than preferable, and that there could be a host of complaints concerning health from players and staff, the mood is said to have shifted in the last few days.
The primary factor is obviously financial, with TV rights the biggest. The Premier League may have to pay back broadcasters £762m if they cannot finish the season, due to the terms of their contracts and the amount companies like Sky and BT are losing without live football, as well as the fact the government hasn’t yet decreed football must stop.
There is growing fear that even Premier League clubs could go out of business if this happens, due to the scale of their wage bills.
Secondary to this is a feeling that the competition can be “a force for good” amid the ongoing crisis.
While the view is very much fans should be present for matches, there is also an acknowledgement that having football on TV could restore a sense of normality, and would be more appreciated than ever.
The major complication is that previous problems remain, whether games are behind closed doors or not.
There is still no possible contingency plan if a player or staff member get the virus, which would again force a club’s entire squad into 14-day isolation. Returning to playing games, even with hugely limited numbers of people, could expose those involved anew.
Some sources still feel that any plans to play football until the crisis calms down are “pie in the sky”, and that it won’t happen until June at the very earliest.