Warring Premier League clubs will meet on Monday with tensions mounting over the divisive ‘Project Restart’ plan to finish the season amid the coronavirus crisis.
Premier League chiefs hope to return to action in June, but that goal could be scuppered by an internal battle between clubs fiercely protecting their own interests.
The Premier League delayed their latest meeting until after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s address to the nation on Sunday.
But, for those clubs and players concerned about the rush to return, Johnson’s admission that the virus transmission rate is still too high to significantly ease Britain’s lockdown until at least June 1 was hardly reassuring.
Johnson offered no details about the Premier League’s short-term future and indicated that, while the general population will be allowed to play sports from Wednesday, they must do so only with those in their own households.
And the growing unease about the Premier League’s desire to finish their remaining 92 fixtures only increased on Sunday when Brighton admitted a third player in their squad had contracted the virus.
The scheduled return of Germany’s Bundesliga from May 16 had raised hopes that the Premier League could follow suit, yet there are stark differences between the health crisis in both countries.
Britain’s death toll from the pandemic passed 30,000 this week to become the worst hit country in Europe.
By contrast, Germany has registered just over 7,000 deaths.
However, German second tier club Dynamo Dresden have put their entire squad and coaching staff into two-week isolation after two players tested positive for the virus.
Also on Sunday, La Liga confirmed five unnamed players have the virus and will go into quarantine.
Brighton chief executive Paul Barber has been one of the more vocal critics of the restart scheme and he told the Mail on Sunday: “We have got to be careful that we do not misstep here because if we do, it could ruin lives. It could cost lives. And we cannot afford that.”
Testing and player welfare remain major hurdles to overcome, with Norwich midfielder Todd Cantwell summing up the feelings of worried players when he responded to the positive test at Brighton by tweeting: “We are just people too”.