London, 29 May 2020 (dpa/MIA) – The Premier League has confirmed the 2019-20 season will resume provisionally on June 17 following a lengthy suspension since March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
All 20 clubs approved the fixture plan after a detailed conference call on Thursday.
Manchester City versus Arsenal and Aston Villa versus Sheffield United will be the first two fixtures to ensure all clubs will have played 29 games by the time the full weekend programme commences on June 19-21.
However, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said in a statement: “This date cannot be confirmed until we have met all the safety requirements needed, as the health and welfare of all participants and supporters is our priority.”
If the league does return as planned on June 17, it will be exactly 100 days since Leicester City beat Aston Villa 4-0 in the last completed fixture before the league‘s suspension on March 13.
All remaining 92 fixtures will have to be completed behind closed doors without spectators due to the latest instructions from the British government in its plan to ease the country’s lockdown.
“Sadly, matches will have to take place without fans in stadiums, so we are pleased to have come up with a positive solution for supporters to be able to watch all the remaining 92 matches,” added Masters.
The fixtures will be broadcast live in the UK through a variety of media partners between Sky Sports, BBC Sport, BT Sport and online streaming service Amazon Prime.
Kick-off times will vary from the traditional format, with midweek games starting at 17:00 and 19:00 GMT, and with weekend fixtures between 11:30 and 19:00 GMT.
On Wednesday, the clubs also agreed to return to full contact training despite a number of positive coronavirus cases.
As of May 26, there have been 12 confirmed cases of coronavirus across Premier League clubs after a total of 2,752 tests. Any considerable rise in the figure could put the proposed restart in jeopardy.
As a result of these figures, the Premier League has said it will increase the amount of testing per club from 50 to 60.
The opening two fixtures on June 17 are games in hand from when Manchester City and Aston Villa competed in February’s EFL Cup Final.
Should current Premier League champions Manchester City lose their opening return fixture against Arsenal, runaway leaders Liverpool could clinch the title by winning their first game back.
It will be their first league title since 1990 after Juergen Klopp’s side built a 25-point lead ahead of second-placed City.
At the bottom of the table in the relegation places are Aston Villa, Bournemouth and Norwich City with nine fixtures each to play.
Home and away fixtures look likely at this stage, but the respective local police forces could request certain high-interest games to be played at neutral venues to decrease large gatherings of fans outside grounds.