The Premier League, England’s top-flight soccer league and one of the most popular, profitable sporting organizations on the planet will return to play on June 17 without fans, per multiple reports.
The decision comes after Thursday’s “Project Restart” meeting among league shareholders, who ultimately gave the green light to restart a season that suspended play on March 13 due to the coronavirus.
Aston Villa vs. Sheffield United and Manchester City vs. Arsenal will be the first two matches of resumed play.
At the time of the Premier League’s suspension, its 20 teams had between eight and nine games remaining on their respective schedules to decide a champion — usually crowned in May.
Liverpool has the title all but wrapped up with 82 points in 29 matches, having won 27 games while drawing and losing just once. They are on the cusp of ending a 30-year league title drought — a remarkable stretch of futility considering they are one of the largest clubs in the world.
Manchester City, in second place, is 25 points adrift with 57.
The more intriguing race to watch will be the relegation battle as the bottom three teams in the league will be demoted to England’s second-tier league, The Championship.
The bottom six clubs, Brighton, West Ham, Watford, Bournemouth, Aston Villa, and Norwich City, are separated by just eight points (three points are rewarded for a win, one for a draw, and zero for a loss).
COVID-19 is still impacting the league and its players plenty, and not just by keeping fans out of the stadiums.
On Wednesday, the league reported that four players or staff members tested positive for the virus during its third round of testing. That makes a total of 10 over the first three rounds of testing — minuscule numbers compared to the approximately 2,000 tests administered in recent weeks.
The Premier League — which has a vast following in the United States — reported a revenue of $5.9 billion last season. Only the NFL, MLB, and the NBA had higher numbers.
Elsewhere in Europe, Germany’s top-flight soccer league, the Bundesliga, resumed playing without fans on May 16.