Premier League close to climbdown on TV games
‘Constructive conversations’ over broadcasting every match Drinks breaks to be scrapped but other protocols will remain
The Premier League is poised to bow to pressure and agree to televise all top-flight fixtures while matches stay behind closed doors.
A final decision will be taken early next week, ahead of the season starting on Sept 12, but according to sources there were “constructive conversations” during a shareholders meeting of the 20 clubs yesterday, which appears to represent a significant shift. The discussions also involved the Premier League’s broadcast partners – including Sky Sports and BT Sport – which were also described as positive.
The Government has already made it clear that it believes supporters should be allowed greater access to games while they are not permitted to attend. A spokesman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport had urged the Premier League to “follow the spirit of Project Restart”.
All 92 games were televised live on government orders under Project Restart, the name given to the return of the Premier League behind closed doors last season folAll lowing the suspension of football. Now the Premier League insisted it was not simply giving in to government pressure and that yesterday’s meeting was the first opportunity it had to fully discuss the issue of televising more games with the clubs.
However, its stance is a clear change from the statement issued after the previous meeting, when it simply said its focus was getting fans back into stadiums.
It is understood that several clubs, already nervous at the squeeze on their finances, were resistant because they feared the effects on existing broadcast deals and also on season-ticket sales. But it appears the argument to show all the games – at least for September
– has now gained widespread support, especially if, as remains the plan, fans will be allowed back in to stadiums on a limited basis from the beginning of October, with a cap of 30 per cent capacity.
As things stand, fans of clubs including Newcastle United and Burnley would go through this month without being able to see their team play live, while all of the games for the “Big Six” are already scheduled to be shown.
At the shareholders meeting there was a second vote on whether five substitutes should be allowed again this season. However, it was again rejected, by 11 clubs to nine, so the rules will revert to three substitutes being permitted.
the other protocols that were put in place under Project Restart will continue for the beginning of the next campaign except for the drinks breaks midway through each half, even though part of the original idea behind them was to allow equipment to be sterilised.
The clubs delayed the drafting of a rule on what should happen in the event of the season being curtailed by a second spike in the pandemic. It is understood that no formula has yet been favoured and so the season will start without the rule change, although one is expected to be agreed soon.
The Premier League is also in talks with players over how to continue the anti-racism campaign.