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Project Restart: What is it? How will it work? When will it happen?

Sports Mole rounds up everything you need to know about 'Project Restart' as the Premier League agrees on a date to begin top-flight football again.

The Premier League is plotting a route out of the coronavirus-enforced shutdown which has halted any action in England's top flight since March 9.

Leagues around Europe have taken different stances regarding the return of elite-level football, with France's Ligue 1 cancelling their season with current positions standing, Germany's Bundesliga resuming earlier this month and the Belarusian Premier League having never stopped.

Here, Sports Mole answers the key questions surrounding 'Project Restart' in the Premier League.

What is Project Restart?

A woman wearing a mask walks by the Emirates Stadium after manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for coronavirus and their Premier League match against Brighton on Saturday has been cancelled on March 13, 2020© Reuters

Project Restart is the name given to plans to get elite football in England - namely the Premier League - going again following the coronavirus lockdown.

How long has football been suspended for?

Football in England was officially suspended on March 13, two days after the Manchester City vs. Arsenal clash became the first to be postponed.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was the first Premier League staff member to test positive for the disease, closely followed by Chelsea's Callum Hudson-Odoi.

The last Premier League match to take place was on March 9, when Leicester City thrashed Midlands rivals Aston Villa 4-0.

Liverpool played Atletico Madrid in the Champions League two days later, which was the last elite-level match to be held in England.

Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum in action with Atletico Madrid's Felipe in the Champions League on March 11, 2020© Reuters

Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers were both in Europa League action away from home and behind closed doors on March 12, while Rangers hosted Bayer Leverkusen in a packed Ibrox Stadium.

Pre-match handshakes were banned in the Premier League on March 5.

How will Project Restart work?

The Premier League is approaching the return of football in stages, and these could be adjusted in adherence to the government's own flexible coronavirus response.

Stage one was for players and staff at top-flight clubs to undergo coronavirus testing and for a return to non-contact training, which took place on May 17 and May 19 respectively.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson drives into training on May 19, 2020© Reuters

Stage two, which has commenced as of May 28, is a return to contact training, which the Premier League clubs voted unanimously for on Wednesday, May 27.

Stage three is another step towards normal training and a build-up to competitive games, which would take place behind closed doors.

When will the next stage happen?

Premier League clubs are understood to have voted unanimously for a June 17 restart date for competitive action, which means that they will enter phase three now.

Manchester City vs. Arsenal and Aston Villa vs. Sheffield United are the first games scheduled as they were postponed prior to the lockdown, while the first full gameweek of action would take place over the weekend of June 19-21.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp growls with excitement on March 7, 2020© Reuters

Could that restart date be changed?

As with everything during the coronavirus pandemic, plans are subject to change and must be flexible.

A second peak of cases in England would likely force the Premier League to postpone their plans once again, while the idea of curtailing the season has not been taken off the table completely - although talks would then be needed over the best way to end the campaign.

Should the number of cases stick on their current trend and other factors go as planned, then the intention is to get back up and running on June 17.

How many cases have there been in the Premier League?

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta reacts on February 27, 2020© Reuters

Arsenal boss Arteta was the first to confirm he had tested positive, while Chelsea's Hudson-Odoi was the first player to officially catch the virus.

The Premier League is now undergoing substantial testing, and there have been 12 positive tests among players and staff in the first three rounds of that - just 0.5% of those tested.

There have been 2,740 negative results after the first three rounds of testing, and the amount of testing will now increase to 60 people from each club, twice a week.

The relatively low number of positive results suggests that COVID-19 is not widespread among Premier League clubs, and importantly there has been no cluster of cases from one club in particular.

What is the situation elsewhere in England and the UK?

Leeds United's Luke Ayling celebrates with teammates after he scores their first goal on February 29, 2020© Reuters

The likes of Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion, who currently occupy the automatic promotion spots in the Championship, remain hopeful that the season will be resumed in the second tier too.

The Premier League's plans to restart in mid-June will be taken as a major positive, though, and hints towards the Championship campaign being completed too.

League One clubs have so far been unable to agree on a way to end the season, with current standings, a points-per-game system or simply declaring it null and void all options that have been touted.

League Two clubs have voted to end their season, although the issue of promotion and relegation has not yet been finalised with the future of the League One campaign still up in the air.

The Women's Super League has been cancelled, with decisions on champions and relegation still to be decided there too, while Scottish football from the Premiership down has also been curtailed.

In the Scottish Premiership they have used a points-per-game system to decide the final standings, giving Celtic a record-equalling ninth-straight title and relegating Hearts.


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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp growls with excitement on March 7, 2020
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