Newcastle United's Premier League rivals have eye on June return to action

Newcastle United’s Premier League rivals Brighton & Hove Albion are preparing for a return to action in June despite no firm top flight date being set.

Saturday, 25th April 2020, 10:59 am
Updated Saturday, 25th April 2020, 11:00 am

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber has, according to PA, revealed June is the month his club are working towards, even though they are yet to receive an official date from the game’s governing bodies.

Top-flight clubs will meet again next week to discuss the prospect of playing the remaining games of a season, with the campaign halted by the coronavirus pandemic. A behind-closed-doors return is presumed but the league are waiting for the green light from the government – that is before any issues such as player testing, TV coverage and scheduling are discussed.

Still, Barber – who says Brighton’s players will need a four-week mini-pre-season in preparation – is planning for a June restart.

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NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 21: Gaetan Bong of Brighton & Hove Albion battles for the ball with Ki Sung-Yueng of Newcastle United during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion at St. James Park on September 21, 2019 in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

“I think we are still in a holding pattern, we have got another Premier League meeting in a week’s time when we will have chance to discuss the latest information from the Government and I think we will see where we are then,” Barber said.

“(Manager) Graham (Potter) and (technical director) Dan Ashworth are getting the players back together again in the first week of May (on a conference call), with a view of potentially beginning to play some time in June. But these are lines in the sand as opposed to definitive schedules.

“We haven’t really talked in specific detail about the schedule because it is almost impossible to do so.

“There are so many variables in there. When will the lockdown be lifted? If a lockdown is lifted, what will social distancing look like?

“If it is relaxed to some degree, does that mean players can go back to training? If they go back to training, does that mean it is in small groups or larger groups?

“There are so many variables that football clubs can’t answer.”

UEFA told its members on Thursday that any qualification to its competitions next season should be decided on sporting merit.

That means that if the campaign cannot be completed without impacting the next one, the Premier League must come up with a way to decide its final table.

Barber is not wanting to think about that just yet, but accepts it might have to happen.

“That’s a very difficult question. We are not at that point yet,” he said.

“We are very determined to try and find a way to finish the season for all the reasons that we’ve discussed many times before. At the moment that is our main focus, our priority. That’s what we want to be able to do.

“But we keep adding the caveat, and we have to add the caveat, that we can only do that when it’s safe to do so.

“We also have to add the further caveat that there will come a point where we may have to confront the kind of scenarios you are talking about.

“But we’re not there yet and we’ve been very focused on making sure that we exhaust every possibility of playing out this season.”