Football’s cautious return from the coronavirus pandemic will be subject to strict health and safety regulations while world governing body FIFA has announced a unique step to protect player welfare.
Premier League chiefs have been warned not to take the option of completing the season behind closed doors for granted with meetings on the subject set to continue with Government officials next week.
Meanwhile, with other domestic leagues edging closer to a resumption, FIFA announced a new temporary rule which will allow five substitutions per team per game with immediate effect.
No date has yet been set for a prospective return to Premier League action with a variety of options being mooted including playing at neutral venues or even staging games abroad.
But Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told BBC Radio 4: “They (the Premier League) have not been given the green light.
“If we can get a plan that works then I’d like us to be able to go ahead with it because I think it would be good for the nation, it would be good for football as a whole.
“I’m really hopeful we can get this up and running but public safety must come first so it’s only if we’re confident of that that we’ll be able to proceed.”
With Germany’s Bundesliga declaring its intention to return on May 16, FIFA has announced its new measures to protect players subject to abridged training sessions.
Each side will have only three opportunities, excluding half-time, to make changes in an amendment which comes into force immediately for competitions which start and finish before the end of 2020.
A FIFA statement said: “The decision on whether to apply this temporary amendment will remain at the discretion of each individual competition organiser, while the IFAB and FIFA will determine at a later stage whether this temporary amendment would need to be extended further (e.g. for competitions due to be completed in 2021).”
Meanwhile, the PA news agency understands it is too early to suggest the League One and League Two seasons will be cancelled, despite reports to the contrary.
It is understood that guidance issued by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday will help shape the plans, and clubs will be meeting to discuss the issue early next week.
On Thursday, Forest Green chairman Dale Vince said he could see “no real reason” not to try to complete the season.
Vince wrote on Twitter: “We want the football season to be completed, and see no real reason not to – yes there are operational issues, but these will exist for the start of the next season, so it’s a useful dress rehearsal.
“It’s important to complete the competition for promotion and relegation.”
Recriminations are continuing in Scotland following the recent vote to end the lower league season and hand the authority to the Scottish Professional Football League to do the same with the top flight.
Rangers managing director Stewart Robertson, whose club has called for the suspension of SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster and legal advisor Rod McKenzie, has been accused of making “baseless, damaging and self-serving attacks” by his fellow SPFL board members.
The remaining directors have insisted they have “compete confidence” in Doncaster and McKenzie, and reiterated their advice to clubs to reject Rangers’ resolution for an independent investigation.