Legal action fears if Premier League season doesn’t finish

Steve Parish, the chairman of Crystal Palace, says the Premier League could face years of legal challenges if this season is not completed due to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira, File)
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Updated 04 May 2020

Legal action fears if Premier League season doesn’t finish

  • League and government working to find a safe way for players to resume training, play games by June

LONDON:  The Premier League could face years of legal challenges if this season is not completed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the chairman of Crystal Palace warned Sunday.

Steve Parish offered public support for the league’s “Project Restart” plans after relegation-threatened Brighton and West Ham expressed concerns about teams being forced to play their remaining games in neutral stadiums.

The league is working with the government to find a safe way for players to resume group training and play games by June at the earliest.

But the French and Dutch league seasons have already been halted by their governments amid ongoing concerns about sporting fixtures spreading COVID-19 infections. While Paris Saint-Germain was crowned French champion last week despite Ligue 1 ending prematurely, Ajax will not be awarded the Dutch title.

“I want to complete the competition for reasons of sporting integrity,” Parish said in a column published Sunday on the Palace website. “I want to crown Liverpool champions and give every other club a fair crack at the best league position they can achieve. I certainly don’t want to have difficult conversations about curtailing, voiding and points per game.

“The ramifications of each are complex and could involve legal challenges that run on for months, if not years. But, yes, it is partly about the money. And we should all care about the money.”

Parish highlighted the “many secondary industries football enriches,” with the Premier League fearing losses of more than £1 billion from an incomplete campaign as broadcasting commitments are not met.

“Nobody wins if the Premier League receives less money,” Parish said. “Football is one of the most efficient tax-generating industries in Britain: We pay the players a lot but 50 percent goes straight back into the public purse. Overall we pay about £3.3 billion  in tax every year and it is the Premier League that largely funds the whole football pyramid.”

The national lockdown remains in place through Thursday in Britain where more than 28,000 people have died in around two months in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for the new coronavirus.

Parish’s explanation of “Project Restart” came as the Premier League faced heavy criticism from one of the main pundits for the broadcaster that provides the league’s single biggest revenue stream.

Gary Neville, the former England and Manchester United defender turned Sky Sports commentator, said the Premier League was having a “nightmare” and was “hiding, scared to death of communicating” its plans fully in public. The league has not made any official available for interview since the competition was suspended almost two months ago.

“I want football to return. I also understand the complexities,” Neville said in a response to Parish’s tweet linking to his column. “No one wants to be responsible for this one! Just in case the unthinkable happens ... I’d respect them more if they said ‘We accept the increase in health risk but it’s one we are willing to take.’ They won’t as they are frightened to death!”

The Spanish league has been communicating its plans more substantially ahead of players resuming training individually at the clubs’ facilities on Monday while observing a series of safety measures pre-established by the league and local authorities, including regular COVID-19 testing.

There is more uncertainty in Italy where the government has only allowed players in regions containing eight of the 20 Serie A clubs to resume individual training from Monday.

While the leagues in England, Italy and Spain will not start until at least June, the German top flight is hoping to resume this month.


Champions League ready to resume, at long last

Robert Lewandowski, left, and Bayern Munich during their Marseille friendly ahead of the Champions League last 16 2nd leg against Chelsea. (Files/AFP)
Updated 03 August 2020

Champions League ready to resume, at long last

  • UEFA ‘confident’ no more delays despite virus cases among players at Real Madrid and Sevilla

PARIS: After an enforced hiatus of almost five months, the UEFA Champions League and Europa League resume this week in order to clear up the last remaining business in a troubled season.

Both competitions were frozen in March as the coronavirus pandemic took hold across the continent, and while European football’s governing body acted swiftly to move Euro 2020 back a year, for a long time it was unclear how it would manage to complete its two landmark club competitions.
In the end the solution was to set up two mini tournaments bringing all teams together in one place from the quarterfinals onwards, with all ties being decided in one-off matches behind closed doors.
And so the Champions League will move to Lisbon for the “Final Eight” starting on Aug. 12 and ending with the final at Benfica’s Estadio da Luz on Aug. 23.
The Europa League, meanwhile, will be played to a conclusion at a series of venues in western Germany, with the last eight beginning on Aug. 10 and the final in Cologne on Aug. 21.
“I believed it from the first moment,” said the UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin recently when asked if he ever doubted it would be possible to play the tournaments to a conclusion. “You should always be optimistic, and if something like this crisis happens, you must have a plan ready. “At the present time, we will be playing matches without spectators until further notice. We will not take any risks.”
There is, though, no question of further changes being made to the formats despite concerns about an increase in Covid-19 cases in and around Lisbon, and more recent worries in Germany about a rise in cases there.
UEFA also recently insisted it was “confident” there would be no more delays despite cases of coronavirus emerging among players at Real Madrid and Sevilla. It is, in any case, now or never.
Indeed, the preliminary round of next season’s Champions League begins next Saturday, the same day Bayern Munich entertain Chelsea and Napoli visit Barcelona in their outstanding last 16 second legs.
Before that, Manchester City defend a 2-1 first-leg lead at home against Real on Friday as Pep Guardiola’s side target Champions League glory on the back of the club’s success at getting a two-year ban from the competition overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The winner of that tie will face Juventus or Lyon in the quarterfinals in Lisbon.
It is the Europa League which is first up, though, with the last 16 being completed on Wednesday and Thursday.
Two ties — Inter Milan against Getafe and Sevilla against Roma — will go ahead as one-off ties in Germany as the first legs were never played.
Six second legs will also be played with the winners heading to Germany for the last eight.
Among the ties to be completed is Manchester United’s against Austrian side LASK, which will be a formality for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team after they won 5-0 in the first leg in March.
Their form since the Premier League resumed in mid-June has been excellent and they have already sealed a place in the 2020-21 Champions League, but now they want to finish this never-ending season with a trophy.
“Now our focus is on the Europa League because this is a really good trophy and we want to win,” Bruno Fernandes told MUTV.
“I came to Manchester to win trophies. We need to play every game to win. If we go into the Europa League and win every game, we know we’ll win the trophy.”
United, Europa League winners in 2017, could yet find themselves facing Premier League rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers in the semifinals in Cologne on Aug. 16 should both teams get there.
Wolves entertain Greek champions Olympiakos on Thursday having drawn 1-1 in the first leg of their last-16 tie.
Their campaign started more than a year ago now, with a 2-0 win over Northern Irish side Crusaders in the second qualifying round on July 25, 2019.
Extending it by another couple of weeks would do them no harm.