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Coronavirus wrap: Premier League could be free-to-air as sport task-force formed

UK & international sports | Published:

Former England international Alex Scott will be among a select panel charged with finding creative ways to bring sport back in a shutdown environment.

Alex Scott

Premier League matches have moved closer to being broadcast free-to-air, while the Government has announced the formation of a task-force to help sport resume in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said he had “productive discussions” with top-flight officials, and believes such a deal could be a “win-win situation” for supporters and clubs.

Sky and BT Sport have exclusive rights to show live Premier League matches in the UK, with the BBC holding a deal for highlights.

Oliver Dowden
Oliver Dowden could strike a deal to bring the Premier League back on free-to-air TV (Andrew Parsons/PA)

But with the planned resumption of top-flight football following the
coronavirus suspension only possible behind closed doors, it negates the standard requirement for a Saturday afternoon blackout.

Dowden said: “I think that creates an opportunity for us to be able to get some sport, some Premier League free to air.

“I hope we can sort this out and also hope we can get more money going into
the sport of football. I think we can find ourselves in a win-win situation.”

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Former England international Alex Scott will be among a select panel charged with finding creative ways to bring sport back in a shutdown environment, Dowden confirmed.

He added: “It (the task-force) will be made up of the brightest and the best from the creative, tech and sporting worlds.

“They will be advising me on how we find new and different ways to get industries back up and running.”

Chris Wilder
Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder believes football is nearing a return (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

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Phase one of football’s return was given the green light by Premier League clubs at the start of the week, allowing clubs to start small, socially-distanced training sessions from Tuesday.

Six people across three top-flight clubs tested positive for coronavirus out of 748 in the initial round of testing, including three at Watford – one player and two staff members – and Burnley assistant manager Ian Woan.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder told Sky Sports: “A lot of people have been tested and the signs are encouraging.

“Testing has been very thorough. A lot of hard work has gone into to make sure this runs as smoothly as possible.

“It is baby steps in the process of returning to full training.”

While the Premier League is looking to restart, the situation in the EFL is far less certain and Sunderland insist the League One campaign must be finished on the pitch.

There is disagreement among third-tier clubs about how to proceed, with the north-east side part of a group of six clubs who announced last Thursday their commitment to completing the season on the pitch.

Sunderland chief executive Jim Rodwell said: “We believe that any league placings should be determined by what happens on the pitch, not in a meeting room and most certainly not in a courtroom.”

The French Football League has announced that no club will be relegated from Ligue 2 this season, meaning next season’s campaign will consist of 22 clubs, including promoted pair Pau and Dunkerque.

Bowlers are to start training at seven county grounds from Thursday as cricket joins football in stepping up its return to action plans amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The England and Wales Cricket Board has announced that up to 18 bowlers will take part in individualised training sessions across seven county grounds from Thursday.

Edgbaston, Emirates Old Trafford, Emirates Riverside, Kia Oval, Trent Bridge, Taunton and Hove are the assigned venues, with each hosting at least one session this week before a full roll out from Monday.

The designated bowlers, whose identities have not yet been confirmed, will have their temperatures checked but no testing is planned in stage one of the return to training.

Meanwhile, the 2020 Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving Britain without a major cycle race this year.

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