Brighton and West Ham chiefs not expecting April season resumption

Premier League
Karren Brady has issued a public apology for West Ham's problems on and off the pitch, and said the board takes full responsibility.

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber and West Ham vice-chairman Karen Brady both believe it is unlikely the Premier League will resume on April 4.

Football seasons across Europe have been thrown into turmoil due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, with the leagues in Spain, Italy, Germany and France, among others, having all been suspended.

On Friday, it was confirmed football in Britain would also be put on a temporary hiatus until at least April 3, with the Premier League hopeful of returning a day later.

However, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has said the expected peak of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK won’t be until late May or early June, leaving everyone involved in football playing a guessing game as to when matches will take place again.

The Premier League is due to meet again on Thursday to discuss contingency plans, two days after UEFA gets together to decide whether the European Championship, scheduled to take place in the summer, will be put back until 2021.

Europe’s governing body are expected to move the Euros in order for the remainder of this season’s fixtures to be fulfilled before the 2020/21 season is due to start in August.

Sky News report that one senior club source told them there is a 75 per cent chance that this season will never be completed and Brighton’s Barber admits that is a possibility.

While the Seagulls chief executive wants to see the campaign finished, he feels it is highly unlikely games will take place any time soon, meaning alternatives need to be discussed.

“Our intention must be to play the fixtures, but it’s really hard to imagine putting on a football game in the Premier League in two or three weeks’ time given the scenario we are in,” Barber told the BBC. “I think it’s a possible option to leave the 20 teams in the league as it is but bring the top two in the Championship up.

“It gives us a larger league, with four relegation places next season and then two teams coming up again. It has some merit, but there are a lot of issues to be worked through.”

Barber admits it would be “unjust” if Liverpool weren’t awarded the title, whatever happens, not a view shared by West Ham’s Brady, who says the season should be classed as null and void if it cannot be completed.

‘The Apprentice’ personality says that even though most teams only have nine fixtures to fulfil, she believes the only “fair” thing to do would be to write off the campaign and start afresh in August.

In her column in The Sun, she also said it was “dreamland” to think the Premier League would return in April.

FA chairman Greg Clarke has gone even further by reportedly telling the Premier League he doesn’t foresee a way for the season to be completed due to the expected timescale of the outbreak.

There have also been suggestions many players will refuse to play even if the Premier League do decide to resume the season in April, citing health and safety ground.

Within the Premier League, there appears to be a divide over what to do next, with plenty of clubs having their own ideas of how the powers-that-be should proceed.

Several suggestions of how the season should finish or resume have been put forward and none are ideal, with the integrity of the league likely to be damaged no matter what decisions are made going forward.