Premier League matches could resume before coronavirus restrictions are lifted and the current season can still be completed by the end of June, claims Southampton chief executive Martin Semmens.
English football is currently suspended until at least April 30 due to the Covid-19 outbreak and discussions continue between Premier League clubs on the future of the 19/20 season. Measures to reduce the spread of the virus intensified this week but Semmens remains optimistic about the return of top-flight football amidst growing uncertainty.
Semmens told BBC Radio Solent that the return of Premier League football would be “a sign that the country is going back to normal” but stressed that “we have to do what is right and safe for the general public”.
The Saints CEO also claimed that the government is keen to see football resume when the time is right and suggested top-flight matches could be on television every day as people spend an increased amount of time in their homes.
“If people are home for another month and Premier League football is on the TV every day that can only be a good thing. Not because we are more essential than the NHS but because we can give people entertainment and show that we’re fighting back.”
Semmens stressed the importance of completing the end of season by July as many players will be out of contract at that point, meaning some clubs may find it hard to call upon a full squad.
“We hope to get the league done by the end of June,” Semmens added. “As soon as you go past that date, there are legal challenges.”
“If we ended up playing until 15 July and you had to extend a player’s contract by two weeks, convincing a player to play two more weeks of football and get paid nicely to do it – I don’t believe that will be a substantial challenge”.
“The challenge is making sure we don’t have a knock-on effect to other seasons and make football compromised for years to come.”
His comments add to the speculation that everything will be done to complete the season. However, Semmens insisted that clubs won’t press for a comeback if it means diverting the attention of the NHS or the police away from the battle against coronavirus.
Premier League clubs face the prospect of paying back over £700 million to broadcasters if the season isn’t completed and therefore are said to be discussing the possibility of a return in mid-May, with matches being played behind closed doors to limit the risks.