Shubham Jaiswal ([email protected])
The English Premier League takes itself very seriously. Its truncated 2019-20 season resumes on 17 June, and the governing body, the Football Association (FA), has come up with a suitably grand name for it: “Project Restart”. It will become the third major European league to restart the 2019-20 season, after the Bundesliga and the Spanish La Liga (which started on 11 June). Football in England is serious business, primarily because it’s the wealthiest and most popular league in the world football.
But restarting anything, whether it’s a country’s economy or a football league, when the covid-19 pandemic is still raging needs more than a bit of faith that everything will go smoothly. Just like any sporting tournament in these times, the matches will be held behind closed doors, in stadiums devoid of fans. Five substitutions per game has been allowed instead of the usual three, and with elaborate social distancing norms in place, substitutes will sit apart from each other with all players and staff being tested twice a week.
Six “high risk” games will be played in neutral venues, away from high population clusters with big rates of infection. The German Bundesliga, which started on 16 May, has shown how it should be done. The return of a league that boasts of some the biggest stars in world football is a good thing. Sixteen teams in the division have nine, games each left to play, while four—Arsenal, Manchester City, Aston Villa and Sheffield United—have 10. The plan is for these 92 games to be play every day until the league ends. So far, a fixture list has been announced for 32 games, up to 2 July.