Premier League faces an ultimatum from a group of clubs DEMANDING the season is finished by June 30 as they fear legal chaos over player contracts ending
- Football has been postponed indefinitely since March due to coronavirus
- Talks about a resumption are set to continue at a meeting this Friday
- There is a growing sense June 30 is D-day for the 2019-20 season to resume
- June 6 has been mooted as a potential restart date for the English game
- Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID
The Premier League is coming under increasing pressure from its stakeholder clubs to make a decision on the 2019-20 season – with June 30 emerging as the D-day date for completion.
A group of clubs – including some very much in European contention next season – are growing increasingly worried about contracts that are tied to the official season’s end. They fear a delayed campaign that overruns into July could leave them in a minefield of legal struggles with players and commercial partners.
The next meeting of Premier League stakeholders is scheduled for Friday, April 17, and the clubs want the issues around this season’s deadline to be top of the agenda. All clubs are aware of the discussion, even if they are not all in favour of a set date for curtailment.
Liverpool were on the brink of Premier League glory when the season was paused in March
Clubs like Chelsea have dilemmas over players with expiring deals, such as Pedro and Willian
Previously, July 12 had been key to the Premier League calendar because completing the matches by then would avoid rebates to broadcast partners – but that date has been brought forward with a number of clubs receiving legal advice, particularly on the subject of player contracts.
FIFA have announced that they will bring in special measures to protect clubs and players whose contracts expire on July 30, the official end of the European season.
Yet clubs have been advised that English contractual law would supersede any arbitrary or emergency arrangements introduced by the governing body, and players could not be legally held to FIFA’s rulings.
This raises the possibility of loaned players, or those out of contract – such as Pedro, Olivier Giroud and Willian at Chelsea, Jan Vertonghen at Tottenham and Adam Lallana at Liverpool – being able to walk away from their clubs on July 1, even if the campaign was underway but incomplete.
If the odd game remained it might not be considered an insurmountable obstacle – but clubs fighting relegation or challenging for Europe could be rendered vulnerable if key squad members simply refused to play.
Jan Vertonghen (left) and Adam Lallana have expiring deals at Tottenham and Liverpool
Previously, July 12 had been considered as a potential cut-off date due to TV agreements
Clubs believe that is likely if players fear an injury could undermine their next move, leaving them without employment in what could be a flooded, depressed market.
Equally, there are many sponsorship arrangements that come to an end on June 30, creating further confusion around how they should be honoured – particularly if a new deal has been struck.
Liverpool’s kit agreement with New Balance expires this summer, for instance, with Nike taking over in June. Although Liverpool pledged to end what they hoped would be a title-winning season in New Balance shirts – and Nike agreed to that – repeated delays to the season’s conclusion could create confusion and the potential for legal challenges.
‘We are entering chaos territory,’ said one chief executive.
Liverpool’s kit agreement with New Balance ends this summer and they will switch to Nike
The Bundesliga may return behind closed doors in May – a possible yardstick for England
There is an increasing likelihood that Germany’s Bundesliga will return behind closed doors after May 4 and if the Premier League came back the same way soon after it could be possible to complete by June 30.
A proposed restart date of June 6, however, would make a completion date in that month highly ambitious.
Yet clubs also want clarification on what would constitute a squad in this rush to the season’s end – specifically if a player contracted coronavirus and the entire group had to enter quarantine.
There remains the fear a club could suffer relegation, or miss out on a Champions League place, with its first-team withdrawn from action.
In such circumstances clubs want to know whether games would be cancelled, rearranged, or if the performances of any nominated replacement group – the youth team, for instance – would be made to stand.