EPL mulls early end even as gov't clears path to resuming

Full Screen
1 / 2

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

FILE - In this Sunday, May 6, 2018 file photo, the English Premier League trophy is displayed on the pitch prior to the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Huddersfield Town at Etihad stadium in Manchester, England. 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)

LONDON – Abandoning the English Premier League season prematurely was discussed by clubs as a potential option on Monday even as the government cleared a path to resuming the competition in June if there is no new spike in coronavirus infections.

While spectators will not be allowed into stadiums for some time, the British government embraced the return of professional sports in contrast to rulings by French and Dutch authorities who have banned any events until September.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the House of Commons that restoring some sports “could provide a much-needed boost to national morale" after being shut down as Britain went into lockdown in March.

But the fate of the Premier League is in doubt partly because clubs cannot all agree on the plan, advanced by police, to play only in neutral stadiums. The opposition is led by relegation-threatened clubs who discovered on Monday that their final placings could be determined without playing another game.

“It was the first time we discussed curtailment," Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said after a conference call with clubs. “It’s still our aim to finish the season but it’s important to discuss all the options with our clubs."

No conclusions were reached on whether that would involve finalizing the league standings based on a points-per-game formula as the French league did before declaring Paris Saint-Germain champion.

Liverpool is 25 points clear in the Premier League with nine games remaining but clubs remain divided over accepting a plan promoted by police to use neutral venues for all games to limit the burden on authorities.

“Everybody would prefer to play home and away if at all possible,” Masters said. "We are in contact with the authorities.