Crucial votes ahead in English football to decide on season’s end

ENGLISH football is facing a crunch week to determine whether its professional leagues can be played out to a conclusion in 2019-20.

Premier League clubs will hold a shareholders meeting today by video conference and will vote on the technical issue of extending the contracts of players whose deals run out on June 30 by a month and on approving the medical protocols for a restart, which have been developed by the top-flight with club doctors and Public Health England.

Some dissident clubs are expected to argue against a quick return of the national game and a delay to Project Restart – warning that pushing ahead with plans now could cost lives.

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There is a further meeting scheduled for Thursday between the Premier League, the Football Association, the English Football League and the Department of Culture Media and Sport and Public Health England.

Locked out: But will there be news this week about the end of the sporting lockdown?Locked out: But will there be news this week about the end of the sporting lockdown?
Locked out: But will there be news this week about the end of the sporting lockdown? | PA Wire

Meanwhile, the issue of ending the season will be formally raised by the EFL at a conference call meeting, also on Thursday, with League One and League Two clubs informed of the intention to put it to a vote.

Championship clubs will not participate in the vote and are still hoping to finish their season.

But across the lower divisions, there is a widespread belief that the season will be ended, with one of its highest-profile figures in Salford City co-owner Gary Neville having stated that it is not financially viable for League One and League Two to complete the campaign behind closed doors.

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Both Rotherham United manager Paul Warne and Bradford City chief Stuart McCall have also stated publicly that they do not expect the season to finish.

The controversial idea to stage Premier League games at neutral venues is likely to be a major topic of contention among top-flight clubs at today’s meeting.

Relegation-threatened clubs such as Brighton, Aston Villa and Watford have expressed strong opposition to it and want the plan to be abandoned and home and away grounds used to finish the season.

The argument is likely to be put that a delay to a restart, when the reproductive rate of coronavirus has fallen further, would represent a safer environment for players to return and would allow the possibility of home and away games, which would lessen the disadvantage of relegation-threatened clubs.

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But it is expected that the Premier League will stress that police advice and health guidance means the Government will only allow football to restart in 10 approved neutral venues and so there is no other current option.

Meanwhile, Brighton have confirmed that a third player at the club has tested positive for coronavirus.

The unnamed player is in 14-day isolation while he recovers.

The rest of the Brighton squad will continue to train as they have been doing during the lockdown, both at home and in solo sessions at the club’s training ground.

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Two other unnamed players contracted the virus earlier in the pandemic. They are understood to have since recovered but it is not clear whether or not they have returned to training yet.

Brighton technical director Dan Ashworth wants players’ safety to be at the top of the agenda at today’s top-flight meeting.

Ashworth told Brighton’s club website: “The safety of players and staff is top of that list, everyone’s working hard to minimise risk for those groups.

“Then there’s a series of things: Where will the games be played? When can we start? When can the players train to make sure they’re not at risk of injury? How will the games be aired?

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“The most important thing is safety, then you can look at the whole thing and discuss how it can all look, it’s about putting together the pieces of the jigsaw once we have a better idea of what the plan looks like.”

German football’s plan to return after the coronavirus crisis has suffered a setback after Dynamo Dresden announced their whole squad has been put in self-isolation.

The second division club said it had taken the measures after laboratory samples revealed two players have tested positive for the virus, although they are both currently symptom free.

Dresden were due to resume their season on May 17 at Hannover 96, but that match has now been cancelled due to the quarantine measures.

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The German Bundesliga announced plans for football to return next weekend, behind closed doors and subject to strict safety checks, following a fall in the number of new cases in the country.

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