‘Incomplete English season would be an embarrassment’

Mateusz Klich and Derby County’s Tom Lawrence during a match between Leeds United and Derby County at Elland Road, Leeds. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 23 May 2020

‘Incomplete English season would be an embarrassment’

  • Time has come for us to stop repeatedly framing the challenges, says Leeds chief

LONDON: Failure to conclude the Premier League and second-tier Championship seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic would be considered a “national embarrassment,” Leeds United CEO Angus Kinnear has said.

Professional soccer has been suspended since mid-March due to the coronavirus outbreak but the Premier League plans to restart the season next month while the Championship will vote next week to decide on how to end their season.

The German Bundesliga resumed last weekend without fans in attendance while other top European leagues are planning to restart their campaigns and Kinnear said it was time English leagues came up with solutions.

“England had some of the finest sports scientists and football administrators in the game and the time has come for us as a sport to stop repeatedly framing the challenges and start delivering on the solution,” Kinnear wrote in the Yorkshire Evening Post.

“It would be a national embarrassment if the Bundesliga, La Liga or Serie A were to be able to complete safely and the first and fifth biggest leagues in the world were not able to follow suit if the context remained comparable.”

Premier League clubs started training sessions with small groups this week with a view of a possible return to normal ‘contact’ training next week.

Leeds are top of the Championship standings after 71 games and would be guaranteed promotion if the final table is decided by an unweighted points-per-game formula. However, Kinnear insisted they want to finish the campaign.

“If Leeds United wanted to be opportunist we could have seized on this ‘point-per-game’ commitment to push for an early curtailment in concert with some already very vocal self-interests,” Kinnear said.

“However, our intention has always been to do all we can to complete this season where we started it – on the pitch.”

German football

Separately in the Europe, Borussia Dortmund’s coach Lucien Favre said his club will again be without Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel when they travel to Wolfsburg on Saturday on the Bundesliga’s second week of action since it restarted.

Witsel has not recovered from muscular problems he suffered trying to regain fitness before last weekend’s resumption of matches.

But former Liverpool midfielder Emre Can is fit again and available for selection as Dortmund aim to keep their pursuit of leaders Bayern Munich on track with a victory.

Giovanni Reyna, the 17-year-old son of former US international Claudio Reyna and Danielle Egan Reyna, is also set to play some part after what would have been his first Bundesliga start was thwarted last weekend when he injured himself in the warmup before the 4-0 win against Schalke.

Favre also said he was still hopeful German international Marco Reus, who injured groin muscles in February before matches were suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, could return to action before the end of the season.

“He still hasn’t trained with the team. We hope he’ll be able to return as quickly as possible and help us,” Favre said.

Dortmund trail Bayern by 5 points but face the reigning champions at home on Tuesday in a match that could prove crucial in deciding the outcome of the title race.

 


What next for Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’

Updated 03 June 2020

What next for Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’

  • Restart to begin with 2 matches on June 17, to ensure every side played same number of games

LONDON: The Premier League's return is just two weeks away but there are plenty of details for the 20 clubs in the English top-flight to work out before competitive action resumes on June 17.

AFP Sport looks at what is on the agenda at the latest in a series of meetings between the clubs on Thursday.

There have been squabbles over how final league standings should be decided if the season cannot be completed but clubs need a contingency arrangement if a spike in coronavirus cases wrecks their plans.

Most of the teams in the bottom half of the table are reportedly pushing for relegation to be scrapped if the season is not completed on the field.

That still seems highly unlikely, with the English Football Association and English Football League both insisting on promotion and relegation throughout the pyramid.

A points-per-game formula is the most likely option and is part of the reason why the restart will begin with two matches on June 17, to ensure every side has played the same number of games.

Once the two outstanding games — Manchester City vs. Arsenal and Aston Villa vs. Sheffield United — have been played, all 20 sides will have nine games remaining.

No dates for other matches have yet been released, but fixtures are expected to continue from where they left off in March and be crammed into just five weeks ahead of the FA Cup final on August 1.

A long layoff, little time together in contact training and a gruelling schedule mean players' bodies will be pushed to the limits.

In an attempt to minimize injuries and fatigue, world governing body FIFA has allowed leagues to temporarily change their rules to allow five substitutes.

Chelsea have also reportedly proposed increasing the number of substitutes available from seven to nine.

However, critics have suggested those changes will simply play into the hands of the bigger clubs with deeper squads.

Premier League clubs appear to have won their battle to have games played in their own grounds rather than on neutral sites.

However, the UK's national lead for football policing confirmed last week that a "small number" of fixtures will take place at neutral venues.

That is likely to include any match that could see Liverpool crowned champions for the first time in 30 years, to try and avoid crowds gathering at Anfield.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is unconcerned by playing at neutral venues, with results from four rounds of Germany's Bundesliga showing no advantage for home sides in a closed-doors environment.

"We will not have the help from the crowd but no team will have that, so where is the advantage?" Klopp told the BBC.

"Whoever we play it is the same situation, which is why I'm not too worried about it."

The use of VAR could also be dispensed with for the rest of the season should the clubs wish to further cut the number of people required for games to go ahead.

However, the Premier League's CEO Richard Masters is keen for it to remain.

"VAR has its own social-distancing issues, but we think there is a way of completing the season with VAR," Masters told Sky Sports.