AS coronavirus cases surge again, the Premier League is facing mounting questions over the rest of the season.
Here, SunSport’s Martin Lipton runs through the main issues and provides answers to key questions.
WILL THE PREM SHUT DOWN?
Not if League chiefs can avoid it, for many reasons. Scheduling is the main one, but they also risk losing yet more millions in TV company “rebates”, on top of the £340m the clubs have to pay back for LAST season.
BUT WHY ARE GAMES BEING CALLED OFF?
Prem rules actually say that postponement requests “will not be granted” if a club has 14 or more senior players available.
But the League Board can exercise discretion “on a case by case basis” and both Manchester City’s trip to Everton and Tottenham’s home game with Fulham were postponed over fears of the virus being passed on to the opposition dressing room.
THAT’S TWO GAMES. SO WHY ARE PEOPLE CONCERNED?
So City are now two games behind, as are Aston Villa, who were due to play United on the opening weekend.
Now Newcastle, Everton, Burnley, Spurs and Fulham are also a game shy of schedule.
CAN’T THEY JUST MAKE UP THE GAMES?
It’s not that easy. The delayed start means the Prem season, normally spread over 34 weekends, is actually being played over 32, with two extra midweek dates scheduled.
But there is far less wriggle room after European games meant midweeks were unavailable until the middle of December.
Prem fixture planners have set aside three “catch-up” dates – March 2, April 20 and May 19 – but there is still not enough room if teams go deep in Europe and the domestic cups.
YES, BUT WHAT ABOUT EXTENDING THE SEASON?
No can do. Unless there is a Europe-wide shutdown, the Prem must finish on May 23, to give players time to prepare for the delayed Euro 2020 starting in June.
The Europa League and Champions League Finals are the following week, too.
SO WHAT IF THERE IS A SERIES OF INFECTIONS?
Being unable to complete the full season is the Prem’s worst fear, especially as clubs would have to confirm “curtailment rules” allowing a points per game calculation.
They were already split on how many matches need to be played for the season to be deemed legitimate – and are now LESS likely to reach agreement.