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Premier League: Clubs to meet to discuss premature finish options


Players began contact training in the past week as they continued preparing for the resumption of the Premier League on 17 June

Premier League clubs will have their most thorough discussion to date about what should happen if the season is curtailed at their latest meeting on Thursday.

All clubs will be given a say in a detailed debate over how to finalise the league table if the season cannot be completed, though it is widely expected that relegation will not be scrapped.

A fixture list for the first few rounds of the rebooted season are also due to be confirmed, along with kick-off times and broadcast plans, though it is understood there will be some leeway for clubs to offer feedback.

The opening two matches are due to be played on 17 June, with a full round of fixtures that weekend.

Matchday operations and return-to-play protocols will also be presented, with clubs told that breaches of the strict biosecurity requirements would incur sanctions.

The number of people allowed inside the stadium during a match will need to be limited to about 300, according to documents sent to clubs.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has told BBC Sport that the scrapping of relegation if the season has to be cancelled due to a second wave of coronavirus cases was “a significant topic” and would need to be debated by the clubs.

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Some clubs are known to want relegation discarded this season. However, 14 clubs would need to back such a move for it to be adopted, and the Football Association has said it will oppose the idea. The governing body has a decisive ‘golden share’ in any vote.

Premier League bosses are desperate to complete the season by the end of next month to avoid the risk of increased rebate payments to broadcasters, and want to avoid any delays because of disagreements over curtailment.

A vote on the matter may not take place until a subsequent meeting.

After weeks of discussions around the proposal to use neutral venues, BBC Sport understands that virtually all of the remaining 92 matches will be played at home and away grounds.

But Premier League bosses will outline how they will need to identify pre-agreed neutral venues for each region as part of contingency planning in case of local spikes in coronavirus cases.

The use of neutral venues would require a rule change, so clubs will need to vote on this matter.

Various ‘enhancements’ to the broadcasting of matches are also due to be discussed at Thursday’s meeting, including the possibility of camera access to dressing rooms, although that is understood to be unlikely.

The Premier League is expected to offer a centralised plan for including fans in some way.

European football clubs have used different methods to engage fans, with fans of Danish Superliga side AGF Aarhus appearing via video link on a virtual grandstand during last weekend’s derby match against Randers.

Cardboard cut-outs of fans have also been considered by clubs, but the use of the existing big screens might prove the most feasible and least costly option.

The Premier League’s plan to restart on 17 June received a boost on Wednesday, with just one positive test in the latest batch of testing.

The singular case, from 1,197 players and staff members tested, came from Tottenham.

But because of carefully planned drills and physio sessions being limited to 15-minute windows, it is not thought anyone else will need to isolate.

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Serie A options for Santiago Arias

Atletico Madrid right-back Santiago Arias is linked with a Serie A move for Roma, Inter or Napoli.

The Colombia international has struggled for playing time this season, managing only 11 competitive appearances and one assist.

Atleti paid €11m to purchase him from PSV Eindhoven in the summer of 2018, but Arias could be on the way out already.

According to Spanish paper Mundo Deportivo, Serie A clubs are interested in making the most of the situation.

Roma have long been linked with Arias, but now Inter and Napoli are also options for the 28-year-old.

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Man United exploring Ighalo options amid coronavirus shutdown – sources


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Manchester United are exploring their options as they look to resolve Odion Ighalo‘s future at the club, sources have told ESPN.

United have a loan agreement with Shanghai Shenhua to keep the Nigeria striker at Old Trafford until May 30 but that is unlikely to cover the end of the campaign after the coronavirus pandemic caused football to shut down.

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FIFA have suggested contracts ending this summer should be extended until the season can be completed, but there is concern at Old Trafford that the proposals will be difficult to implement, particularly given Shanghai Shenhua are likely to want Ighalo to return for the delayed start of the Chinese Super League.

“It is now obvious that the current season will not end when people thought it would,” FIFA said in a statement.

“Therefore, it is proposed that contracts be extended until such time that the season does actually end.

“A similar principle applies to contracts due to begin when the new season starts, meaning the entry into force of such contracts is delayed until the next season actually does start.”

Despite FIFA’s guidance, United are considering options that include trying to renegotiate Ighalo’s loan, making an offer to Shanghai to buy him permanently or allow the 30-year-old to return to China and risk leaving manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer short of forwards for the rest of the season.

United are keen to have Ighalo available for remaining games in the Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League and have not ruled out signing the former Watford man permanently, but there is an acceptance Shanghai hold the cards in any negotiations.

Ighalo has already impressed during his short time at the club, scoring four goals in eight appearances.

Meanwhile, United have triggered the one-year extension in Timothy Fosu-Mensah‘s contract. The Dutchman has not played for the first team since May 2017 and has had loans spells at Crystal Palace and Fulham.

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Coronavirus: Premier League players discuss pay and support options


Premier League captains such as Jordan Henderson have held discussions over financial support

Captains of Premier League clubs have held discussions over possible moves to give money to charity during the coronavirus pandemic.

Players across the league have faced calls to take a pay cut, most notably from health secretary Matt Hancock.

Crystal Palace winger Andros Townsend has said players are “an easy target”.

But captains have held a call to discuss possible wage deferrals or cuts, or a move to contribute to a charitable cause.

They also discussed ongoing talks involving the Professional Footballers’ Association, the players’ union.

It is understood the most likely charitable outlet would be the NHS, which is under strain in the face of a pandemic that has led to the widespread cancellation of global sport.

More information on the players’ discussion could become known later on Friday as all 20 clubs are meeting via video call to discuss pushing back the resumption of football from the date initially planned – 30 April.

During the enforced break from action, some clubs have furloughed non-playing staff but not looked at players’ wages.

Hancock has called on players “to do more and play their part” and his comments were echoed by Julian Knight, who is chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee.

Knight has written to Premier League chief executive Richard Masters calling for action on player wages, saying clubs that furlough non-playing staff but do not impose cuts on player wages should be subjected to a windfall tax if they do not change their approach by Tuesday, 7 April.

The League Managers Association (LMA), which represents managers across the English game, said the financial position of clubs varied widely across the leagues as a result of the pandemic.

The LMA said: “The approach has varied from club to club with some clubs placing all staff on furlough, and others excluding key personnel such as managers, club doctors and physios, allowing them to continue working remotely with players so that they are ready to play once it is deemed safe for football to resume.

“In some clubs, where staff have not been furloughed, they have already agreed pay cuts or agreed to defer part of their salaries.”

In the Premier League, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy, who earned £7m last year, is one of those to give up a fifth of their earnings and called on English top-flight players to “do their bit for the football eco-system”.

But Palace winger Townsend was unhappy with the demands of Hancock and told Talksport: “Football is trying to do a lot of good. To wake up yesterday and see footballers being painted as villains was a bit of a surprise.

“The health secretary, deflecting blame on to footballers: I don’t think that is right. His job is the responsibility of NHS workers. NHS workers have been underpaid for years.”

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