The Premier League has been told by the government it must show some matches on free-to-air TV and put more money into the Football League and grassroots game as a condition for restarting this season.
The demands were made by the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, at a meeting on Thursday at which he gave the go-ahead for matches to resume provided it is safe to do so.
“The government is opening the door for competitive football to return safely in June,” Dowden said. “This should include widening access for fans to view live coverage and ensure finances from the game’s resumption supports the wider football family.”
The Premier League is in negotiations with its broadcast partners Sky and BT over finding a way of showing some matches free-to-air if and when the season resumes. The government’s preferred solution is that the remaining 45 matches not already covered under the terms of existing TV deals are shown either on freely accessible TV channels or via a streaming platform such as YouTube.
The government has also instructed the league to factor “solidarity payments” into any final reckoning should the season be completed. Broadcasters have demanded a rebate from the Premier League even if they are able to screen their full complement of matches, because of subscribers lost owing to the current postponement of the season and because the league has not been able to deliver the product as promised. The DCMS has asked, however, that a tranche of any remaining TV money received should in part be shared with the rest of the football pyramid.
Top-flight clubs are seeking answers from the Premier League over their proposed medical rules before Monday’s pivotal vote on Project Restart.
Clubs want assurances over what would happen if a player tested positive for coronavirus and some players are equally unconvinced by medical protocols explained in a conference call on Wednesday between captains, league officials, and the deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan van Tam.
The Premier League said last night it also removed a hurdle by agreeing to allow clubs to enter into short-term contract extensions with players whose deals are due to expire on 30 June of this year.
The Brighton forward Glenn Murray said on Wednesday that he is concerned the league could be rushed back too soon – the league is hopeful of resuming the season in mid-June – and the club’s chief executive, Paul Barber, acknowledged several parties need satisfying before next week. “We’ve got a lot of work to do in our club, let alone anyone else and their clubs to get to a point where our directors are comfortable enough to sign off on protocols,” he said.
“We have a process of making sure every part of our club is comfortable with what we’re doing. The most important constituents in that are the players because they need to feel safe and feel that it’s the right thing for them to do, clearly Graham [Potter, the manager] and his staff, and the directors at the club need to understand exactly what they are signing up to and make sure they are comfortable because ultimately the liability sits with us.”