Earlier on Friday, the Premier League. But that target date might be wishful thinking as England and the rest of the world continue to deal with the devastating impacts of the coronavirus outbreak. By the sound of it, there's a chance the Premier League 2019-20 season might not ever be completed, at least according to FA chairman Greg Clarke.
Clarke told the Premier League at their emergency meeting in London on Friday that he does not think it's "feasible" the season will be completed, according to The Times.
From The Times' story:
At the Premier League meeting yesterday, it was Clarke who addressed the elephant in the room when he said that he did not think it was "feasible" the season would be completed. Government guidance has suggested that coronavirus will not peak until about mid-June. Clarke clearly thinks that a rise in coronavirus cases will simply make it impossible for clubs to honour their fixtures.
If the Premier League season can't be completed, the financial losses could total as much as £750 million -- the equivalent of over $923 million, according to The Times. And that's just for the Premier League.
"The commercial reality for the Premier League and Uefa is that if they don't complete their seasons then they are in breach of their broadcasting contracts," a senior figure in broadcasting told The Times. "You would have broadcasters from all around the world saying, 'In that case we are not paying for the season.' For the Premier League alone you are talking around £3 billion income a year from overseas and domestic TV rights. There would also be financial implications if the competitions were squeezed, so fewer matches were played. Again, broadcasters have signed contracts for an agreed number of matches and so if those matches are not played then it could be argued that the contracts have been breached and compensation must be paid."
Obviously, there are far bigger concerns than money. On Thursday, after it was announced that matches would continue over the weekend as scheduled, Chelsea forward Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for COVID-19. That led to the emergency meeting on Friday, when the league was officially suspended until at least April 4.and
The suspension of play comes at a time when Liverpool, chasing its first Premier League title since the 1989-90 season after it wasn't the first time they got excruciatingly close to winning the title), is 25 points ahead of Manchester City (with one match in hand) with only nine matches remaining. It's been reported by The Independent that some clubs want the season to be voided, which could end up costing the Reds their first Premier League title in 30 years.(
Still, in a lengthy statement, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp backed the decision to suspend play. You can read his full statement here, but a portion of it is below.
"First and foremost, all of us have to do whatever we can to protect one another. In society I mean. This should be the case all the time in life, but in this moment I think it matters more than ever," Klopp wrote, via the team's website. "I've said before that football always seems the most important of the least important things. Today, football and football matches really aren't important at all. Of course, we don't want to play in front of an empty stadium and we don't want games or competitions suspended, but if doing so helps one individual stay healthy -- just one -- we do it no questions asked. If it's a choice between football and the good of the wider society, it's no contest. Really, it isn't.
"Today's decision and announcement is being implemented with the motive of keeping people safe. Because of that we support it completely. We have seen members of teams we compete against become ill. This virus has shown that being involved in football offers no immunity. To our rival clubs and individuals who are affected and to those who later will become so, you are in our thoughts and prayers. None of us know in this moment what the final outcome will be, but as a team we have to have belief that the authorities make decisions based on sound judgement and morality."
Meanwhile, Arteta posted a message on Instagram on Friday, thanking everyone for "kind words and support" and also backing the Premier League's decision to suspend play.
View this post on Instagram
Hi everyone. Thanks for all the kind words and support. I’m feeling much better already. We are all facing a huge and unprecedented challenge. Everyone’s health is the only important thing right now. Respect and protect each other by following the guidelines and we’ll come through this all together. Well done to the PL for making the right decision by suspending matches. Thank you again
Again, as Klopp and Arteta noted, safety takes precedence over the sport. Trophies and money matter far less than our collective health.
But some important questions lacking easy answers pertaining to the Premier League season are going to need answering in the coming weeks and months.
Senior Premier League club source says 75% chance season won't be completed: “I can’t see any chance we'll be back in 3 weeks. This will go on for months. You even wonder about the start of next season. There are huge questions to answer. Does anybody get promoted or relegated?”— Kaveh Solhekol (@SkyKaveh) March 13, 2020
For now, we wait. With three weeks remaining until matches are supposed to resume, a lot can change between now and then.