The latest stumbling blocks facing Premier League's Project Restart

Players in revolt over health fears, clubs up in arms over neutral venues and emergency services spread thin at time of national crisis: The latest stumbling blocks facing the Premier League’s Project Restart

  • Project Restart is facing a number of problems as chiefs plot football’s return  
  • Some players have admit they fear picking up the virus and infecting family 
  • And teams near the bottom oppose plans to stage matches at neutral venues
  • There is also the issue of testing stars and possibly taking kits away from NHS
  • Sportsmail outlines the major stumbling blocks officials face in resuming action  
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Rebellion against neutral venues, talk of £340million television refunds, and players indicating they will tell the Premier League where to shove their swabs if they order them back.

Project Restart as a name sounds simple, though it is anything but. There are a number of disagreements as players, clubs and officials continue talks about how football can return within the next month, while ethical concerns around staging games during the coronavirus pandemic continue to surface.

But time is running out to establish a timeline to restart the season and many are fearing that the campaign may soon have to be scrapped if the major players in the talks cannot soon come to an understanding.   

Here, Sportsmail takes a look at ten stumbling blocks the Premier League must overcome if the 2019-20 season is to be resumed and money taps turned back on.

The Premier League wants to resurrect the season but there are a host of issues to address

The players

You cannot play games without the players and Danny Rose, with his usual candour, gave an indication of where they stand on returning to work amid this pandemic.

The 29-year-old, on loan at Newcastle from Tottenham, said: ‘I don’t give a f**k about the nation’s morale. People’s lives are at risk. It’s b******s.’

Rose is not alone. Sportsmail understands several players feel money and politics is being prioritised over their wellbeing, and that message has been relayed to their union PFA. 

Danny Rose insists football should not be returning while people’s lives are at risk to the virus

Sergio Aguero has voiced his concern about picking up the virus and passing it onto his family 

Neutral venues 

During Monday’s meeting, at least two-thirds of the 20 clubs indicated they were against using neutral venues for the remaining 92 matches of the 2019-20 season.

Now, the Premier League have taken that view back to the Government.

It is about more than losing home advantage. Clubs fear losing significant sums of money from sponsors if matches are televised from neutral venues rather than their own. 

More than half of Premier League teams oppose a plan to finish the season at neutral venues, such as Wembley Stadium

Brighton CEO Paul Barber says he will stand firm on his opposition to giving up their home turf 

Emergency services 

Even in neutral venues and without any supporters, key workers would be needed. That includes having ambulance staff on standby at the stadium, in case of any emergencies.

Football does not want to be seen draining resources during such a critical time.

The suggestion is that would happen if a player is injured and needs taking to hospital. 

There are ethical concerns that emergency services could be taken away to service football 

Government guidelines 

The Government have sanctioned the return of elite sport behind closed doors from June 1.

But when Prime Minister Boris Johnson is still preaching social distancing, there is a moral dilemma as to whether footballers feel they should be coming together to compete.

At what point does swabbing players’ cheeks in white tents at the entrance of training grounds, just so they can come in for a kickabout, become beyond ludicrous? 

PM Boris Johnson says sport can resume after June 1 but there is still a social distancing issue

Pre-season 

Though the date of June 1 has been set, players will require a pre-season period. Premier League managers, including Frank Lampard, say four weeks would be best.

One top-flight fitness coach previously told Sportsmail about how they are having to take the data they are receiving from players with ‘a pinch of salt’.

That is because running on a treadmill at home is not the same as traditional training in a field. It has left clubs unsure of their players’ true fitness. 

Television 

There is talk of television companies wanting as much as £340m back, even if matches are played behind closed doors. Apparently, that is not the product they paid for.

Clubs could balk at putting their players at risk while also having to repay broadcasters. 

Premier League are said to be under pressure from broadcasters to get action back underway

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard believes he would need a four week period to get players fit 

Testing kits 

The crux of this issue is clubs do not want to seen dishing out testing kits while your local doctors, nurses and care workers are having to go without.

Even if privately sourced, there remain concerns about the message this would send.

It is worth noting the good that most clubs have tried to do for their local communities, from Arsenal legends phoning vulnerable fans to Brighton’s fundraising efforts. 

Premier League stars will need to be tested regularly if they return to the pitch, but many are worried kits could be taken away from those on the NHS front line 

Relegation 

Curtailing the season was discussed for the first time on Monday, while the Football Association have said relegation must be imposed, no matter what.

So how do you decide this? If by points per game, West Ham would go down, finishing 17th in the Premier League. The legal backlash would be extraordinary.

Hence why playing to a finish – with relegations included, as per FA orders – is preferred. But this is a major issue. Everyone club has its own agenda, after all. 

Teams near the bottom, such as Watford and Brighton, want relegation to be off the table 

UEFA’s deadline 

UEFA had set a deadline of May 25 for a Project Restart plan, though they are willing to extend it.

But by how long? The European governing body are willing to take into account the extraordinary circumstances we are in, but they want to be presented with plans.

Germany’s Bundesliga is set to get going this weekend, while the Premier League’s clubs are due to meet again this Monday to discuss their short-term future. 

UEFA is keen for major leagues to resume as soon as possible and want to see a plan of action 

Location, location, location 

Many clubs let their players fly to their homelands to be with families during the lockdown.

Now, they need them back if they are to resume small-group training next week.

Manchester United were among those to anticipate this and called their stars back recently, though Sportsmail understands there are several clubs still awaiting the return of theirs. 




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