The Premier League 2020-21 season starts this weekend, with the final round of matches on 23 May 2021.
All football was suspended in March because of the global coronavirus pandemic, with the 2019-20 English top-flight season restarting behind closed doors in June and only finishing at the end of July – giving clubs just seven weeks between domestic campaigns.
Other than that, there are plenty more unknowns as the new campaign begins.
Here’s a few of them:
When will fans come back?
As it stands, no fans will be admitted to top-flight matches before October at the earliest.
There were 2,500 Brighton supporters allowed into a Premier League stadium for the first time in almost six months at the end of August, for a friendly between Brighton and Chelsea at the Amex Stadium as part of a government trial event. Tottenham are waiting to find out whether they will be allowed about 4,000 fans into the corporate areas of their new stadium for Sunday’s opening fixture against Everton.
What about season tickets?
Clubs are taking various approaches on whether they are offering season tickets at all this season.
Some are offering refunds, credits and access to ballots for when partial crowds are allowed at games.
A full list is here
How can fans watch games?
It was announced on Tuesday that all 28 of the matches to be played in September will be televised live.
One of those – Leicester v Burnley on 20 September – will be broadcast on the BBC
Fans and the government had been asking the Premier League to consider making more matches available to be shown live while supporters are not allowed in stadiums.
All 92 top-flight matches were shown live on Sky Sports, BT Sport, Amazon Prime Video and BBC Sport after last season resumed in June behind closed doors, following a three-month suspension.
All English Football League games will be available to watch from home while matches continue to be played behind closed doors or at limited capacity.
A temporary measure has been agreed with Sky Sports to allow all games not televised live to be streamed online.
Will there be changes to the EFL and FA Cup to reduce fixture congestion?
- No FA Cup replays and one-legged Carabao Cup semi-finals
The winter break has had to be scrapped, with this campaign running five weeks shorter than a standard season because of the late end to 2019-20.
And for the first time, there will be no replays in this season’s FA Cup.
Also, a full round of Premier League fixtures has been scheduled for the weekend of the FA Cup fourth round. The final will be played on 15 May, before the final weekend of the Premier League campaign.
The Carabao Cup second, third and fourth rounds will be played on consecutive midweek dates from 15-16 September. Premier League teams have agreed to play, with those in Europe coming in at the third round stage.
The EFL Cup semi-finals will be one-off games rather than two-legged affairs as they have been since the tournament began in 1960-61.
The EFL Trophy will start on 8-9 September with the Wembley final on 14 March.
Uefa have said privately they will take a dim view of clubs playing in weeks when their competitions are being played – effectively every available midweek in between October and November international breaks, plus three straight midweeks after the November one.
What about the drinks breaks?
The controversial drinks breaks have been ditched because it was not thought temperatures in winter would get high enough to create an issue.
Will there be VAR changes?
Premier League officials believe the introduction of VAR meant there was 95% accuracy in “key match incidents” last season compared to 82% the year before. They accept it is impossible to get 100% accuracy – VAR cannot intervene when referees give incorrect second yellow cards for a start – so now the aim is to improve the consistency of decision making by reducing grey areas and limit the impact on the game.
In July, Fifa took full control of VAR from the sport’s lawmakers, the International Football Association Board (Ifab).
The most significant impact of this will be an increase in referees using pitch-side monitors for goals, red cards and penalty kicks. VAR will continue to rule on factual decisions and advise on matters of subjectivity. However, it will tend to be the on-pitch referee’s call.
The Premier League will revert back to three substitutions per team, having allowed five following last season’s restart.
What about offsides and penalties?
In theory, a goalkeeper could be sent off if they failed to stay on their line on three occasions during penalties. In the first instance, they would receive a warning, in the second they would get a yellow card and the third a second yellow. For goalkeepers and any outfield player encroaching into the area, the measurements will be taken from their foot on the ground – it also has to have a material impact on the outcome of the penalty itself.
Meanwhile, assistant referees have been told to wait before raising their flags if an immediate goalscoring opportunity is likely to arise from a situation where they believe a player is offside. This is to avoid confusion among defenders if it turns out no offence was committed.
What is handball?
It is an imaginary line, roughly halfway up the upper arm. This is what is expected to be used for handball decisions. Overall, the Premier League anticipate the tweaks to the rules mean more penalties will be awarded in 2020-21 than was the case last season.
Will players continue to kneel for Black Lives Matter in September?
The restart of the previous season saw all players, staff and officials at Premier League clubs taking a knee immediately before all 92 matches in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Players have also been wearing Black Lives Matter logos on their shirts.
Talks are yet to take place about how clubs would represent diversity issues this season – and any decision will be made after a consultation with players.
What about coronavirus testing?
In last week’s Premier League meeting, there was a commitment to complete this coming season should a second wave of coronavirus hit England, although a final decision is yet to be made.
In terms of testing, this will now only happen once a week rather than twice, although the number of staff and players being tested will rise to 75. The Premier League feels the number of positive cases was so small when the season resumed that higher numbers of tests only increased the potential for false positives.
Some consideration was given to getting rid of tests altogether but this has not happened, with the situation due to be reviewed at the end of September and tweaked if it is felt necessary.
Already this week, Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez and defender Aymeric Laporte have tested positive and – according to current guidelines – will self-isolate for 10 days and not train with team-mates. One additional outfield player and a third goalkeeper will now be allowed into the ‘red zone’ on match days.
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