English football (EPL) will not return until April 30 “at the earliest”, it has been decided at an emergency meeting between Premier League clubs, but the 2019/20 season will be extended indefinitely.
Officials from all 20 English top-flight clubs spoke over a conference call on Thursday morning to co-ordinate a strategy for completing the fixture list in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic which has led to the suspension of almost all sport.
It has been decided that the Premier League, the EFL and women’s football will continue to be suspended until April 30 “at the earliest”.
The deadline for returning to action has also been extended indefinitely as part of an agreement with the FA.
It is understood the discussions centred very much on the here and now, although clubs were shown modelling of how the schedule could look using a variety of possible resumption dates.
Crucially, it is understood no clubs present raised the possibility of the 2019-20 season being declared null and void. West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady had suggested that was one solution in the event that games could not be played.
No discussions were held around the possibility of the Premier League providing funding for the EFL at this meeting, it is understood.
A statement after the meeting, published by the Premier League said: “The FA, Premier League, EFL and women’s professional game, together with the PFA and LMA, understand we are in unprecedented times and our thoughts are with everyone affected by COVID-19.
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“We are united in our commitment to finding ways of resuming the 2019/20 football season and ensuring all domestic and European club league and cup matches are played as soon as it is safe and possible to do so.
“We have collectively supported UEFA in postponing EURO 2020 to create space in the calendar to ensure domestic and European club league and cup matches have an increased opportunity to be played and, in doing so, maintain the integrity of each competition.
“The FA’s rules and regulations state that “the season shall terminate not later than the 1 June” and “each competition shall, within the limit laid down by The FA, determine the length of its own playing season”.
“However, The FA’s Board has agreed for this limit to be extended indefinitely for the 2019/20 season in relation to Professional Football.
“Additionally, we have collectively agreed that the professional game in England will be further postponed until no earlier than 30 April.”
The further suspension of English football is no surprise. The game cannot continue as the coronavirus pandemic spreads.
The significance of today is the decision of the FA board, and their agreement to “extend indefinitely” the time limit to the end of the season.
Under the FA’s rules and regulations “the season shall terminate not later than 1 June”. Officials have agreed not to enforce this date.
In summary, football has given itself time, in extraordinary circumstances.
There is a clear determination to finish the season before considering the start of next season.
“The progress of COVID-19 remains unclear” said a joint statement, but the English game is attempting to bring a degree of clarity in a hugely volatile and unpredictable landscape.
A revised resumption at the end of April remains ambitious and, in all likelihood, it will change again in a few weeks.