Premier League games to kick-off with updated coronavirus rules

Fans across Europe should have been looking forward to a summer of football, as Euro 2020 was scheduled to start on 12 June. Coronavirus has pushed back the contest, set to have been played in cities across the continent, until 2021. But there is something to look forward to as the Premier League is returning after 100 days.

When the Premier League returns on 17 June, there will be some major differences. The most obvious will be the lack of fans, with teams playing behind closed doors. Some matches will be broadcast for free though, with Crystal Palace at Bournemouth set to be the first ever Premier League game shown live on BBC. It will be the first of four matches televised on the national broadcaster. Sky has said that 25 of its 64 games will be free to view, including the Merseyside derby, where Liverpool could secure their first title in 30 years, joined by Amazon’s four games. There are a total of 92 fixtures to be played, with all of them live on TV.

But there are changes in store for how the game is played too. Premier League chiefs confirmed, on 4 June, that five, rather than three, substitutions will be allowed for each team. The bench will also be increased to nine players from seven. Teams will only have the chance to make substitutions three times during the game, so there will be more double or even triple switches. The rules were changed on welfare grounds, as players will be playing in hotter weather, in a condensed space of time and lacking match sharpness as they come back from over three months of inaction.

The update to the number of substitutions allowed will be familiar to watchers of the Bundesliga. Football-starved fans have tuned into the top German division as it was the first major league to start playing again. The league restarted on 16 May after teams isolated themselves to ensure they were virus free.

The change to the substitution rule was made by the International Football Association Board, the body that governs the rules of the sport, which adopted FIFA’s proposed amendments. Spain’s La Liga will also implement the change. They will be the second major European league to restart, with the Seville derby between Sevilla and Real Betis on 11 June.

Other leagues will resume following the Premier League’s 17 June kick-off, with Italy’s Serie A hosting games from 20 June, with the Championship also restarting the 19/20 season on the same date. The FA Cup will play its quarter-final games on the weekend of 27-8 June, with the final set to be played in front of an empty Wembley Stadium on 1 August. That’s not the end of the fixtures though, as the Championship play-off final has been provisionally set for either 2 or 3 August.

Criticism has been levelled at organisers who let the 11 March Champions League game between Liverpool and Atletico Madrid go ahead, with 3,000 fans travelling from the Spanish capital, then under lockdown, possibly spreading the virus. An investigation by the city’s council is currently underway.