England’s football authorities will delay the start of the 2020-21 season until the last ball has been kicked in the 2019-20 campaign, with sources telling ESPN that this year’s Premier League and EFL seasons will “absolutely finish before the next one begins.”
The decision, announced following a video conference involving all 20 Premier League clubs on Thursday in which it was agreed to extend the football shutdown until April 30 at the earliest, has raised the prospect of Liverpool having to wait until the autumn, or even later, to secure their first league title in 30 years.
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All professional football in England was halted last Friday, initially until April 3, due to the coronavirus pandemic that has led to many nations across the globe imposing strict lockdown measures in an effort to delay the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The pandemic has already resulted in the postponement of Euro 2020 for 12 months.
Sources have told ESPN that there is a hope within the English game that fixtures could resume in early May, although it is likely that those would be played behind closed doors.
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But with relegation and promotion issues still to be resolved throughout the professional game in England, as well as the FA Cup, which has been suspended at the quarterfinal stage, the Football Association, Premier League and EFL have accepted that next season cannot begin until this campaign has been concluded.
However, with no end in sight to the crisis, the FA board has now taken the unprecedented step of extending “indefinitely” the June 1 deadline for all leagues to be concluded this season.
In a joint statement, the FA, Premier League and EFL said: “We are united in our commitment to finding ways of resuming the 2019-20 football season and ensuring all domestic and European club league and cup matches are played as soon as it is safe and possible to do so.
“We have collectively supported UEFA in postponing Euro 2020 to create space in the calendar to ensure domestic and European club league and cup matches have an increased opportunity to be played and, in doing so, maintain the integrity of each competition.
“The FA’s Rules and Regulations state that ‘the season shall terminate not later than the June 1’ and ‘each competition shall, within the limit laid down by The FA, determine the length of its own playing season.’
“However, the FA’s board has agreed for this limit to be extended indefinitely for the 2019-20 season in relation to professional football. Additionally, we have collectively agreed that the professional game in England will be further postponed until no earlier than April 30.
“We will continue to follow government advice and work collaboratively to keep the situation under review and explore all options available to find ways of resuming the season when the conditions allow.”
Clubs within the EFL have been advised by the league to stop training until April 3, with sources telling ESPN that a return to training after that date could make it possible for games to be played in May.
There is now an acceptance that next season will be delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, but sources have told ESPN that the sporting integrity of the professional game makes it a necessity to finish this season before attentions are turned to the next one.
“Who knows when next season will start and how many games clubs will we be able to play?” a club source told ESPN. “But this is the only way. We have to end this season first.”