Premier League to restart on June 17 with Manchester City against Arsenal and Aston Villa against Sheffield United

Jason Burt
Manchester City v Arsenal action - GETTY

The Premier League will return on Wednesday, June 17 – with Manchester City against Arsenal and Aston Villa at home to Sheffield United the opening two fixtures.

The key games, one of which will kick off at 6pm and the other at 8pm, are the two “in hand” matches before the next round of fixtures starts with an 8pm Friday night game on June 19 – which, Telegraph Sport understands, could be West Ham United at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers – and a schedule staggered across the weekend of June 20 and 21.

All the behind-closed-doors games will be televised live, with the aim of ending the league season before the end of July with six weekends of fixtures and three midweek rounds.

The restart date and proposed first matches were put to the 20 clubs at a lengthy shareholders’ meeting yesterday. A number of key Project Restart issues were discussed and a vote on them has been set for June 4.

These issues included:

  • Playing a number of high-profile matches at neutral venues – including those involving Liverpool when they could win the title, and some London derbies. Matches at stadiums where social distancing is more difficult, such as Burnley’s Turf Moor, could also be moved. Conversations will continue with the police to identify the games. The rest will be at home. However, some clubs remain strongly opposed to neutral venues.
  • Settling final places on points per game if the season is not completed. It means that if no games are played and, for health reasons, the campaign is curtailed before June 17, then Norwich City, Aston Villa and Bournemouth will be relegated.
  • All 92 games will be broadcast in the UK and will be spread over existing rights-holders Sky Sports, BT Sport, Amazon Prime and the BBC, who will show four games live. Sky has announced that 25 of the 64 games it will show will be free-to-air, one of which will be Everton v Liverpool on the first weekend back. BT Sport has confirmed it will show 20 matches which means Amazon Prime will broadcast the remaining four.
  • Fixtures could follow the original schedule, although kick-off times would be vastly different i.e. Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 12.30pm, 3pm, 5.30pm and 8pm, Sundays at 12pm, 2pm, 4.30pm and 7pm, Mondays at 8pm and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays at 6pm and 8pm.
  • A rebate of £340 million due to the broadcasters even if the fixtures are fulfilled can, potentially, be reduced to £170 million if the season is completed by Aug 2, as is planned. The formula is complicated but it hinges on the bulk of matches being played before July 16 which, contractually, is the official end of the season.
  • The rebate will be spread across all 20 clubs, with the bigger ones expected to pay more. It is understood none of the rebate will be payable next season. The clubs will receive their full broadcast revenues, with 50 per cent of the rebate due in 2021-22 and the remainder in 2022-23.

The Premier League stressed that June 17 was a provisional restart date, dependent on the effects of Covid-19, but it is two days earlier than expected and means the clubs will have around three weeks of full training to prepare.

Some managers had argued for longer but the league and clubs were keen not to delay the season any more, partly because of the further financial penalties that kick in.

The opening two fixtures, postponed because of City and Villa’s involvement in the Carabao Cup final, will take place exactly 100 days since the last Premier League game – Villa’s 4-0 defeat by Leicester City on March 9 – before football was shut down four days later.

It also makes sense to get those games out of the way so that all teams are on 29 matches played. Both games are extremely important, given Villa’s plight in the relegation zone and Sheffield United and Arsenal hoping for European qualification, while a defeat for City would mean Liverpool were champions if, in their first fixture back, they beat Everton away – which is bound to be one of the games taking place at a neutral venue.

“Today we have provisionally agreed to resume the Premier League on Wednesday June 17,” Premier League chief executive Richard Masters confirmed. “But this date cannot be confirmed until we have met all the safety requirements needed, as the health and welfare of all participants and supporters is our priority.”

Liverpool’s fixtures have been identified as potentially needing to be moved to neutral venues, and it is understood the club are relaxed about the possibility, slim as it is.

Liverpool will probably only play at a neutral ground until the title is won, although there is an acceptance that the comments of Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson, who said the season should be ended because fans would congregate outside Anfield, did not help.

The issue of neutral venues is one that is exercising Tottenham Hotspur who have derbies at home to Arsenal, Chelsea and West Ham United. West Ham also oppose neutral venues. The schedule means that the remaining FA Cup ties will also be played, probably in midweek, with the final proposed for Saturday, Aug 1.

Do you have any questions about the Premier League's restart? Share them in the comments section below and Jason Burt, our Chief Football Correspondent, will answer them.