In give-it-a-name fashion, both the Premier League In England and Italy’s Serie A announced today the dates they will resume. The Premier League will restart on June 17, behind closed doors (no fans), with two matches and then a full-slate the following weekend. Serie A will return on June 20.
The Premier League, with 92 matches left on its schedule, will start with Aston Villa vs. Sheffield United and Manchester City vs. Arsenal, as those were the four teams that still had 10 games left to play. Once those are completed every team will have nine games remaining. Games will also see staggered start times so that all of them can be televised, That will see matches (all times EST) on Friday at 3 p.m.; Saturdays at 7:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 3 p.m.; Sundays at 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m.; and 2 p.m. and Mondays at 2 p.m. There will also be three sets of midweek games, which will be staggered between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday.
Only yesterday did the league approve “contact training,” as teams had been only training in small groups. There have been 12 positive tests out of 2,752 administered to players and staff during the return to training that began last week. Players and staff will be tested twice per week going forward, and any positive test will see that individual quarantined for seven days. That doesn’t mean everyone is happy, as some players like Troy Deeny and N’Golo Kante have refused to return to training due to fears over their safety.
The return to action will not mean a return to drama at the top of the table, where Liverpool still has a 25-point lead and could clinch the title as early as the very first weekend should Man City lose to Arsenal on the first night of action (which brings joy to my red-scarf adorned heart, as there’s been a bottle of “A Little Bit Of The Bubbly” chilling in my fridge for three months awaiting the occasion). The real theater will be in the fight for Champions League places, where Leicester, Chelsea, Manchester United, Wolves, Sheffield United, and even North London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal will haggle over two or possibly three spots in Europe’s top competition, depending on what happens with Man City’s European ban at the Court Of Arbitration For Sport.
Similarly, the fight against relegation is a tasty one, as six teams are in danger, with Brighton, West Ham, Watford, Aston Villa, and Bournemouth all within four points of each other above Norwich, who are screwed. With that many teams having things to compete for, most every game should have something riding on it for most of the rest of the season.
Of course, the real reason executives are eager to get the Premier League back on its feet is money. The league was on the hook for a £340M (approx. $419M) rebate back to its television partners, and that’s apparently even if they complete the schedule. However, if the rest of the season is completed, the BBC says that rebate can be paid over time. Don’t weep too much for the league however, as it’s currently slated to pocket £9.2B from this season and the next two thanks to its various television deals.
Serie A will return with tighter restrictions, as any positive test will see an entire team quarantined. Serie A also has serious title drama to get back to, with Juventus leading Lazio by a mere point at the top.
The fact that either of these leagues have set dates is a little on the bewildering side. Both countries have seen four times or more the deaths from COVID-19 that Germany has, and Italy still has nearly five times the active cases at the moment than Germany. England is still seeing 2,000 new cases per day as of today, though Italy has gotten their new cases per day to around 500. The U.K. has seen a reduction in daily new cases from last month of over 50 percent though, so the hope must be that by the time the games start, that downward trend will have continued.