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Project Restart: Everything you need to know about Premier League return

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The Premier League are committed to finishing the season.

The Premier League are committed to finishing the season.

PA

The Premier League are committed to finishing the season.

The Premier League are working towards a resumption of the 2019/'20 season that will see football finally return to the field in the UK.

The sport, like almost every other, has been shut down indefinitely in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic with discussions taking place ever since between clubs, leagues and the UK government over if and when play can resume.

Following the latest guidelines issued as part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown, the English FA (FA) has now told the Premier League clubs that the season must be settled by "sporting merit". It means that issues like relegation or the title must be settled by either playing the remaining fixtures, or by a formula like points-per-game. Voiding the season altogether is off the table.

So when will the Premier League return? Here's everything you need to know:

When will the Premier League be back?

This is the question the clubs are working around the clock to decide. The Premier League are committed to finishing the season and following advice, should there not be a further spike in cases, have the green light to do so from June 1. Clubs have been working towards this time-frame for some time with a mid-June start date the most likely.

Prime Minister Johnson is behind the plan to bring sport back as it "could provide a much-needed boost to national morale".

Will the games be behind closed doors?

Yes. The government guidelines stated that step two of the roadmap, which cannot begin any earlier than June 1, includes "permitting cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact".

For the Premier League, that will mean no supporters allowed in stadiums for the remainder of the season at least. In all likelihood that measure could stretch on for much longer.

Will it be held in neutral venues?

This remains the most contentious of the issues still on the table. Police advice has been that neutral venues should be used as the host stadiums for the remaining matches to minimise the chances of fans congregating outside.

However, a growing number of clubs are against this idea with the bottom six in particular eager not to lose home advantage in their battle against relegation. The Premier League are open to putting that suggestion to the government with more developments likely.

What if a player tests positive?

The Premier League have addressed the issue of a positive test and insist that should any player contract Covid-19 that wouldn't necessarily mean their whole squad would have to go into quarantine.

Chief executive Richard Masters said: "With regards to our back-to-training protocols, if a player tests positive, providing that player has been socially distanced as anticipated in these protocols, that player would be isolated for a period but there would be no need for the rest of the group to be, because they've been socially distanced."

Will there be promotion and relegation?

Yes. The clubs have been told that the league must be decided on "sporting merit", whether that be on the pitch or via a mathematical equation. That also means that taking relegation off the table is a non-starter.

Who will win the title?

The season will be completed one way or another meaning suggestions of making the campaign null and void can be put to bed.

Liverpool, who are 25 points clear at the top of the table, require just two wins to clinch a first title in 30 years. They will almost certainly now do so, either on the pitch or via a method of determining the final placings.

What about the Champions League?

The top four will still qualify for the Champions League with Uefa indicating they have no plans to amend qualification criteria for Europe's top competition. As things stand, that will see Liverpool, Manchester City, Leicester and Chelsea qualify. However, there is still the small matter of City's European ban to contend with, of course.

Should their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport fail, then the fifth-placed finisher, currently Manchester United, would take their place.

Will the games be on TV?

Sky and BT Sport will broadcast the remaining matches as per the terms in the multi-billion contract they agreed to with the Premier League. Some matches could be made free-to-air.

What's happening with player contracts?

The situation over contracts had proven a headache. If left as is, up to a fifth of the Premier League's players could have been out of contract in the middle of a possible run-in. The Premier League have agreed a solution, however, with clubs and players now able to agree extended contracts beyond June 30 and until the end of the 2019/'20 season.

What if they can't finish the season?

If the season cannot be completed then a points-per-game formula is most likely to be used to determine the final positions. If it is done on purely points-per-game, for example, Bournemouth would be relegated. If weighted points-per-game - an extrapolation of home and away fixtures - is used, then West Ham would go down.