How will the Premier League look if it returns?
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The Premier League is still in talks for a return to action next month. Plans are being considered, with numerous options available to clubs. The general feeling is that clubs want to finish, even if there are certain areas where they still disagree a little.
There is certainly a thirst for the league to return, especially after seeing the German Bundesliga announce its return in May. That will provide German fans with games to watch, English fans want the same.
The betting industry is hoping action returns quickly too, after two months with very little sport on offer. Bookmakers such as those listed on Free Bets UK will no doubt have a variety of different offers and concessions waiting for players as the action in Europe begins to return.
However, when the league comes back, what will it look like? There are a number of differences we could see, these include the rules in place, where games will be and how we will watch them. This all adds intrigue, but the main focus right now has to be getting some form of action back so that we can all tune in and watch.
New rules in place
There are two rule changes that we could see in the games when things return. These have been approved by FIFA, although they are not forced upon the leagues, it is up to them whether they want to implement them or not.
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The first is regarding substitutions. A team will be allowed a maximum of five subs under new rules, something that has been brought in to protect player welfare with fitness issues likely to be seen in the first few games as things return.
This rule isn’t straight forward though, to protect the flow of the game, subs are only allowed to be made at three different intervals during play, plus half time. If teams make a sub at the same time, it counts as both using one of their substitution periods.
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The second rule surrounds the most controversial topic in football, VAR. This can be abandoned by the leagues coming back if they wish. Health and safety of officials is the concern here, with a number of people needed to work close together in the VAR hub to make decisions. With no VAR, this is not needed and these people can stay safely at home.
There will be fans, players and officials all over the country happy if VAR is left out for the remainder of the season.
Home grounds or neutral venues?
If you believe the leaks from Premier League meetings, this is the one topic that is causing many of the arguments. Some teams are happy for neutral venues to be used, in an attempt to keep fans away from the ground, while others do not want to lose home advantage in what could be hugely important games.
Those down towards the bottom of the table have the most to lose, so it is no surprise to learn they are the ones against playing on neutral venues. Even without fans, there is a comforting feeling about playing at home, travelling a short distance and using your own changing room. Clubs don’t want to lose that for what is the biggest part of the season for some of them.
Neutral venues may be the only way forward though, and if that is the case then these teams are going to have to agree, or risk losing the season all together and we don’t want that to happen.
Could we see additional TV coverage?
One of the hottest topics regarding the Premier League has been what TV coverage could come with no fans allowed into games. There are over 90 games remaining, and nearly half of those, 45 in total, are not scheduled to be on TV. Could these make an appearance? It seems inevitable that teams will try and do something to get them on TV, while making them free to air could be pushed by the government, who want fans to stay at home and watch.
While it is unlikely to affect the games that Sky Sports and BT will cover, the remainder could find themselves on either free to air TV, or with a free streaming service. We have seen the Champions League final on YouTube in the past, could we see it again? Could we see the Premier League turn to Amazon Prime, who streamed games for the first time in December?
If it comes to TV and the government has an interest in what happens, that has to bring the BBC into the equation. ITV amongst others will also be keen to get some games, knowing how many people will be looking to watch these and the possibilities for advertising they will bring.
What is happening elsewhere?
The German Bundesliga is set to return to action on Saturday May 16. This will make it the first major European league to return after a break. While fans of the Premier League may not be too interested in Germany, seeing another league come back has to be a positive sign for those wanting the Premier League to return.
The Bundesliga always planned for a May return, whereas other countries have planned for a June return, so its great to see the first league given the go ahead. Two other major leagues to follow the Premier League when it comes to a timescale are Serie A in Italy and La Liga in Spain.
These are both aiming to resume in June, and are on course to submit official plans for a return soon, just like the Premier League. This would see clubs allowed to train together for the last two weeks of May to get fitness up, before playing in June.
If you look on the positive side of this, we could have four major European leagues playing football in around one month, which would be a huge win for sports fans.