HT Correspondent & Agencies
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The Premier League on Friday said it wouldn’t resume the 2019/20 season at the beginning of May, pushing back its ongoing suspension beyond April 30, and will do so only when it is “safe and appropriate”, following a meeting of stakeholders. Without indicating any date for a possible resumption, the league stated that “any return to play will only be with the full support of Government and when medical guidance allows”.
The last Premier League game was played on March 9, when Leicester City beat Aston Villa at home. Later that week, the season was suspended due to the novel coronavirus outbreak in the UK.
In Friday’s meeting, all 20 top-tier clubs also decided to consult their players regarding a proposed deduction in wages to help them bear the brunt of the pandemic’s financial fallout. The wage-cut proposal includes “a combination of conditional reductions and deferrals amounting to 30 per cent of total annual remuneration”.
To help lower league clubs deal with the financial distress, clubs agreed to advance funds amounting to £125 million.
A day earlier, UEFA and Europe’s top clubs stated their determination to conclude the current football season and threatened that teams may be excluded from next season’s European competitions if their domestic competitions are ended prematurely.
In a joint letter released late on Thursday, UEFA, the European Club Association (ECA), and the European Leagues body representing nearly a thousand clubs in 29 countries, said that they were working on the possibility of playing on into July and August if need be.
“Since participation in UEFA club competitions is determined by the sporting result achieved at the end of a full domestic competition, a premature termination would cast doubts about the fulfillment of such condition,” the letter warned domestic leagues.
The joint response came after the Belgian Pro League announced on Thursday that it recommended declaring the season over with the present table accepted as final, meaning Club Brugge are this season’s champions. It is the first European league to take such a measure, although more could follow.
ON COLLISION COURSE
However, UEFA’s warning may put it on collision course with many domestic leagues across the continent. The Belgian Pro League and the Royal Belgian FA (RBFA) reacted to the letter on Friday morning, placing a call to UEFA to register their disagreement.
“During this meeting, which took place in a constructive atmosphere, the directors of Belgian football explained their motives for public health and the economic arguments that formed the basis for the recommendation that the Board of Directors formulated yesterday. They also indicated that they would not agree to an approach that would force leagues to continue their leagues in the current general health crisis, under penalty of exclusion from next season’s European club leagues,” read a statement on the Pro League’s website.
In neighbouring Netherlands too, calls are growing for a season cancellation. Hours after Belgium’s move on Thursday evening, two more leading Dutch clubs joined champions Ajax Amsterdam in calling for cancellation of the rest of the season.
AZ Alkmaar, who were leading the standings with Ajax when the league was suspended last month, and PSV Eindhoven, champions in 2018 and runners-up last season, added their voices to a call made by Ajax technical director Marc Overmars.
“We find the current coronavirus situation extremely concerning and think to complete the rest of the season behind closed doors in irrelevant,” AZ technical director Robert Eenhoorn told Dutch media. “We cannot find any justifiable reason to restart the season,” PSV technical director Toon Gerbrands said.
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