Premier League must be completed, insists Sheffield United boss

SHEFFIELD UNITED manager Chris Wilder has stressed that the finish date for the 2019-20 season must be left open-ended – amid increasing pressure from a number of Premier League clubs to make a final decision.

Chris Wilder manager of Sheffield Utd. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Discussions on a set date for the end of the current campaign are likely to be at the top of the agenda at today’s meeting of top-flight stakeholders.

A commitment to finishing the season before the start of July – regardless of whether all scheduled matches have been completed – is among the options being considered as football continues to grapple with the fall-out of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

A number of clubs – including several who are in contention for qualifying for Europe next season – are said to be particularly concerned about the legal ramifications of extending the season beyond June 30, when many player and staff contracts expire along with those of many sponsors and commercial partners.

In a bid to protect clubs and players, world governing body FIFA has approved plans to extend contracts and move transfer windows to allow seasons on hold due to Covid-19 to be completed.

But some clubs have been advised that English contractual law could supersede any arrangements introduced by FIFA.

The Premier League would require a 14-club majority if a proposal to finish the season by June 30 is put to a vote.

Should it be passed, the likelihood of completing a 38-game season for all clubs would be remote, something that Wilder cannot countenance.

On the notion of a cut-off point to finish the season, Wilder, whose seventh-placed side are in contention for a place in Europe in 2020-21, said: “No, I don’t think so. I am sure we will adjust accordingly.

“For the integrity of the competitions and the competitions – especially at the top end of English football and European football -–they will want to finish the season (after 38 games).

“I believe there will be an ability next season to adjust with international breaks and moving a few games into midweek and extending the season next season (so) that we can and we have that ability through organisation and planning to finish this season off.

“But only, as everybody has said – and I will reiterate that – when it is safe to do so for everybody.

“We have to take our lead from the Government and what they suggest and what we have to do.”

Meanwhile, the Blades boss has also spoken of the importance of resuming the football season as soon as is safe to do so in order to lift the spirits of the nation amid stressful and unprecedented times caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

After initially voicing his scepticism regarding the prospect of the 2019-20 season finishing behind closed doors, Wilder has since changed his view and acknowledged that it represents the most pragmatic and sensible way of finishing the campaign when it is safe to do so.

It remains to be seen when that transpires, but Wilder has stressed that his players – who are following individual fitness programmes at home – have a responsibility to be ready when the season re-starts.

The Bramall Lane chief continued: “They (players) have obviously been given individual programmes to do and modern-day technology has allowed us to monitor and record those activities to the levels we have set them and we have done that very, very efficiently.

“We have been delighted with that and I think they realise as well that they need to hit the ground running when, hopefully, we do get back into it.

“I should imagine it will be a pre-season and then back into the games.

“Because I am 100 per cent that there is a massive enthusiasm, not just from the Premier League or just the Premier League clubs and players, but the overall nation, to get some football back out on the screens.

“Hopefully, that will boost morale in the country because there is not a lot of good news stories coming out of the media at the moment.

“Hopefully that will be one and we can shift our attentions to watching a bit of football through this terrible period.

“There are bigger issues out there at the moment and we totally understand that. But it is important that we keep working hard, keep our heads down and keep moving forward and seeing where we can take it.”

The only goal that matters: Page 15