FIFA is to confirm an indefinite extension to the 2019-20 season across the globe, allowing each country’s football authority to determine when campaigns can finish.
The game’s world governing body will also alter the dates of the summer transfer window and permit contract extensions for players whose deals run out on June 30.
The plans, which are likely to be revealed in the next 48 hours, will afford maximum flexibility with FIFA appreciating the spread of coronavirus is different in each country. This comes after UEFA last week committed to finishing the current season and was moved to deny a report that its own president, Aleksander Ceferin, had set a deadline of August 3 to complete all outstanding games.
While the decision from the highest authority in football does not take null and void off the table, it considerably reduces the chances of seasons being cancelled altogether. The planned announcement was greeted by one Premier League club as “really sensible” with it removing the pressure to conclude the season at a time when the world is dealing with a pandemic.
The Athletic understands timeframes were not discussed at great length in Friday’s meeting between Premier League clubs. There are significant fears that the 20 sides may yet need to repay £762 million to broadcasters should the season not be completed, with The Athletic revealing last week that the determination to finish the campaign even led to one idea of taking games to China.
Insiders at a number of clubs say a reality seems to have finally dawned over the past week that, while ideas can be formulated for different scenarios around scheduling, until the outbreak passes over the top of the curve nobody will really be able to plan with confidence.
While some Premier League clubs accept that there might be no option other than to resume seasons behind closed doors or even at neutral grounds in other “safe” countries, other clubs believe football should only return when fans are able to enter stadiums.
It is on this battleground that the next debate in England is likely to be had, especially as some Football League clubs are concerned about extending contracts if there is no clear date for a return to football, knowing that they will have to carry out paying money with no signs of standard streams of income in that period.
The situation with football contracts is a complex one, as my colleague Matt Slater explained. One manager of an EFL club told The Athletic over the weekend that he has 13 players out of contract in June and ten of those contracts are unlikely to be renewed.
Some of his concerns related to the focus of his team and therefore the integrity of the league, considering he would have to ask a number of players to perform for him when they know they might not have jobs in the near future.
He was also worried about the length of the next transfer window, questioning whether it would be long enough for him to sign enough players to be able to register a squad for the 2020-21 season.
The Premier League summer transfer window is due to end on September 1 at 5pm and in February the EFL announced an “agreement in principle” to return to a traditional deadline day at the end of August.
The Athletic also revealed how the Premier League’s hopes of striking a deal to secure 30 per cent wage deductions or deferrals from players were in peril on Saturday night as footballers became increasingly concerned that agreements may benefit club ownerships more than non-playing staff or the emergency services. Discussions are expected to resume this week.