PREM clubs are edging towards a September 12 start date for next season.
But that would put the League Cup under serious threat – and spell the likely end of FA Cup replays as well.
Next season’s Premier League campaign looks set to start on September 12Credit: Reuters
League chiefs had proposed three potential starting weekends for the 2020-21 season, August 22 and 29 and the September date.
September 5 is impossible because it falls in the middle of what will be the first international break since last November.
League chiefs were keener on an early start for a season that must finish by May 16 because of the fixed requirement for a rest period before the delayed Euro 2020..
But that would have opened the possibility of Manchester City, Manchester United and Wolves all missing the opening weekend if they are still involved in the rescheduled Champions and Europa League mini-tournaments.
No formal decision was made after the discussions at the latest video meeting of the 20 “shareholder” clubs.
But SunSport understands the clubs are now leaning towards the September option – with one reason being the hope that a later start would increase the possibility of some fans being allowed back in grounds by then.
However, the later start date would have a massive impact on both domestic cup competitions.
Prem clubs not involved in European competition play in the third round, normally scheduled for the last full week of September.
Next season’s Carabao Cup could be in doubtCredit: Getty Images – Getty
The fourth round is then played in the final days of October.
But Uefa have already scheduled the six matches in the group phases of the two European competitions to be played over an eight-week spell starting on October 20.
That period includes the two midweek dates lost to the November international break, meaning no opportunity for the European clubs to play in the Carabao Cup unless they get the green light to play youth sides.
A September 12 start will also impact on the League’s commercial broadcast deals and the FA Cup.
Under the terms of the current deals, League chiefs have committed to 34 weekend fixture dates.
But starting on September 12 means there will be only a maximum of 32 weekends available before the end of the season.
And even that number is only possible if League chiefs can the winter break introduced last term as the first year of a three season trial AND take back the normal dates scheduled for the fourth and fifth rounds of the FA Cup.
The solution favoured by the clubs will see Prem and FA Cup fixtures scheduled for the fourth and fifth round dates.
Next season’s FA Cup should still go ahead as planned… but without replaysCredit: PA:Press Association
But it means there will be even less room for replays, which were still in place for the third and fourth rounds this season, although fifth round replays did bite the dust.
It is likely that both the FA and the EFL will be looking for financial recompense, with Wembley chiefs facing an extra issue if they are forced to give up the replays which were confirmed in their own broadcast deals.
The clubs are now expected to confirm the start date at their next meeting, provisionally due to take place on July 23.
They will also look to confirm the dates for the summer transfer window, likely to now start at the close of the season and last just 10 weeks until October 5.
That is the Uefa deadline date for European registrations but the clubs are wary of shutting too early and once again leaving themselves open to seeing players enticed away by continental rivals who may have later domestic closure dates.
The clubs want to know that the other members of Europe’s “big five” leagues will be matching the Uefa dates before adopting that as the deadline, although it appears the most likely date.
One other decision was that club academies can now commence socially distanced training for youth players, with immediate effect. That has not been allowed because of Covid-19 since March.
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