Sky Sports Soccer Saturday return in doubt despite Premier League restart – EXCLUSIVE

Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday is a staple of many football fans’ weekend as supporters eagerly tune in to watch Jeff Stelling and co. provide all the latest scores and analysis from across the UK.

The entertaining football results show has been off the screens since early March as professional football was postponed because of the coronavirus.

Plans have been drawn up for the season resume on June 17 but that does not necessarily mean one of Britain’s most-loved football programmes will follow suit.

“I honestly don’t know at the minute,” Stelling, speaking on behalf of Prostate Cancer UK, told Express Sport when asked if the show will return this season.

“Obviously with the return of the Premier League that is some encouragement but that wouldn’t be enough for Soccer Saturday to return.”

Stelling presents the six-hour show alongside four former footballers-turned-pundits.

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But given the strict social distancing guidelines there may be more difficulties in getting Soccer Saturday back up and running than initially meets the eye.

Stelling and co will also have the issue of a spread out fixture list, which is going to be built to allow more games to be broadcast on TV.

“We are reliant on a number of games and the best hope is that the Championship does and that those games are going to be on Saturdays,” Stelling added.

“If it is then I assume that we’ll be back that weekend although because of the way the show is we are reliant on floods of scores from Leagues One, Two, the National League and Scotland, it will be a different show.

“There are logistical issues as well in the sense that we have a panel of four plus me and if we are all to socially distance during a show, two meters each, then some people are going to be sitting in the corridor.

“We have got camera men and floor managers so there would be logistical issues.

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“Bringing the boys down from various parts of the country. I’m sure we could get them there but there is nowhere for them to stay at the moment.

“There will be a way around it I’m sure. I would hope we would return at the end of the month but there are no guarantees at all.”

Stelling has been in contact with his Soccer Saturday guests over the past three months to check-in that everybody is doing well.

“I have spoken to them on the phone and by text over the course of the last three months,” he said. “They have all got by.

“One of Phil Thompson’s sons is a doctor so he has been on the front line. He has been concerned about him.

“Alan McInally has been locked up on his own at home for however many months.

“We can get out and about on the golf course again now but his partner lives in Canada so they have been separated.

“Everybody has had their own issues but it has been nice to talk to them from time to time.”

What is happening today?

On Tuesday 2nd June Prostate Cancer UK will be sharing latest statistics which show that prostate cancer has become the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK for the first time. This news comes 10 years earlier than previously predicted due largely to increased awareness of the disease in recent years. 

Prostate Cancer UK will be using this to highlight the need for more research to tackle the disease. However, the COVID-19 crisis has put much of this research at risk and the charity is calling for support to raise the millions of pounds it estimates is needed to get prostate cancer research back on track.

Find out more about the impact of Covid-19 on research and donate to Prostate Cancer UK on our website – prostatecanceruk.org/fundresearch

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F1 2020 calendar: When does new F1 season start? First 8 races confirmed

Plans are in place for F1 to restart after the 2020 season was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The first eight races of the revised calendar have now been announced.

A statement read: “Formula 1 has been working closely with all partners, authorities, the FIA and the ten teams to create a revised calendar that will allow a return to racing in a way that is safe for the communities we visit and the entire Formula 1 community.

“Due to the ongoing fluidity of the COVID-19 situation internationally, we will be finalising the details of the wider calendar and hope to publish that in the coming weeks with an expectation of having a total of 15-18 races before we complete our season in December.

“We currently expect the opening races to be closed events, but hope fans will be able to join our events again when it is safe to do so.

“The health and safety of all involved will continue to be priority number one, with Formula 1 and the FIA having a robust and detailed plan to ensure our races maintain the highest level of safety with strict procedures in place.”

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When does F1 2020 season start?

The new F1 campaign will begin with two races in Austria on July 5 and July 12.

Racing will then move to Hungary before a double-header at Silverstone in August.

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F1 chairman Chase Carey said: “We are pleased to be able to set out our opening eight race calendar today and look forward to publishing our full calendar in the coming weeks.

“I want to thank every promoter and partner for their support and ongoing commitment to Formula 1.

“While we currently expect the season to commence without fans at our races we hope that over the coming months the situation will allow us to welcome them back once it is safe to do.

“But we know the return of Formula 1 will be a welcome boost to sports fans around the world.”

F1 2020 race calendar so far

Round 1: Austria – July 5

Round 2: Austria – July 12

Round 3: Hungary – July 19

Round 4: Great Britain – August 2

Round 5: Great Britain – August 9

Round 6: Spain – August 16

Round 7: Belgium – August 30

Round 8: Italy – September 6

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Liverpool urged to tie ‘frightening’ youngster down to long-term contract

Liverpool must tie Harvey Elliott down to a long-term contract, according to former England goalkeeper Paul Robinson. Elliott, 17, is reportedly set to sign his first professional contract at Liverpool after making seven appearances for the first team since his arrival last summer. The deal on the table is said to be three years long.

However, Robinson has questioned why Liverpool are not offering a longer contract.

He is a big fan of Elliott and reckons Jurgen Klopp will keep him amongst the squad next season rather than sending him out on loan.

“It is frightening thinking where he will be in three years time,” Robinson told Football Insider.

“He is going to have some future in the game.

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“I am surprised it is only three years. I would have expected a long contract.

“Whether that is him or the club I do not know. A player of that quality and that age, I would be looking to tie him down to a longer contract if I was Liverpool.

“I do not think he is going to be sent out on loan.

“He has had a taste this year and shown more than enough to show that he can be an integral part of the squad next year.”

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Meanwhile, Liverpool are set to face Merseyside rivals Everton when the Premier League resumes later this month.

And Klopp has spoken about his squad’s preparation for that moment.

“We don’t have to be match-fit now,” the manager told Liverpool’s official website.

“We try it with increasing intensity, day by day, but we have to be fit on the 19th or 20th, whichever day they will give us against Everton, I think.

“That’s the moment when we want to be at 100 per cent. It’s roundabout three weeks until then, that’s good.

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“We want to use that and we will. It’s our pre-season; how I said, we don’t expect a long break in between the seasons, so this is a very important period for us.

“We never had nine weeks without football training in our lives – since we played football, pretty much. That’s all different but interesting as well.

“We enjoy the situation, that’s really all good. And it makes all the difference for us, to be honest, to come together and have this hour or two here together.

“You get this contact, feedback as well on the pitch directly, not via a computer or a screen. It’s a massive, massive lift.”

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Arsenal using new transfer strategy to beat Everton to 12-goal French striker

Arsenal have joined two Premier League rivals in the battle to sign Nantes forward Edoly Lukoki Mateso, reports claim. The 16-year-old has bagged 12 goals and provided 11 assists for the club’s Under-17 squad and is regarded as an exciting talent for the future.

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Manager Mikel Arteta is on the look-out for promising talent in the upcoming transfer window with funds expected to be limited due to the financial impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.

And, according to French publication FootMercato, Mateso has been identified as a potential addition.

The sought-after striker is described as a ‘real number 9’ with speed, technique and is capable of playing with his back to goal.

The teenager has enjoyed an excellent campaign for The Canaries’ Under-16 youth squad and he’s been selected to represent France at Under-16 level.

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FootMercato claim Mateso has been watched by scouts from across Europe this season with ‘several’ English clubs interested in securing his signature.

The Gunners are eager to continue with their new strategy of recruiting young players for relatively low fees like Gabriel Martinelli and Matteo Guendouzi, who cost a combined £13million.

However, Arsenal have competition from their top-flight rivals.

The report claims Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton and relegation-threatened Norwich have also expressed an interest in Mateso and are ‘already in the running’ for his services.

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Manager Arteta discussed his plans for the summer in April and vowed the club would ‘react daily’ to any changes in the transfer landscape.

“I’m planning two or three different scenarios that we can face,’ Arteta told Sky Sports. “Depending on one of those three, we will be able to do more, less or nothing.

“We have to react daily. We don’t know what the financial situation is going to be, we don’t know the rules, the timing, the window. ‘There are so many things we cannot control at the moment.”

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Rangers chief Ross Wilson sends promise to fans in battle to stop Celtic’s 10 in a row

Ross Wilson has promised Rangers fans they are working hard to rebuild the club and stop Celtic winning a 10th title in a row. Rangers have already completed the permanent signing of Ianis Hagi from Genk this summer in a deal that follows his successful loan spell at Ibrox.

And the Rangers sporting director insists he and the club’s scouting teams will do whatever it takes in a bid to overhaul Celtic.

Celtic were handed their ninth successive title last month after the Scottish Premiership was ended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Celtic had a 13 point lead but Rangers were still keen to play the season to a finish when safe to do so.

And despite the fallout from calling the season Rangers are already working on the next campaign, with Hagi the first one through the door.

But Wilson, speaking on talkSPORT, promised more work was being done to get the side ready to battle for the title next season.

“Steven, myself and the scouts and the coaches, we’ll be working as hard as we possibly can in an ever changing world, in a difficult world to make Rangers as successful as we possibly can, that’s something that’s in all of our character here,” he said.

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“We want to do well for the club, we recognise where the club’s been, we recognise there’s a huge task here to build the club back to where it wants to be, but we’re all on the same page and heading in that one direction, whether it’s the work in our academy, the work in our first team, the work across our scouting team, there’s a lot of good work done here already to build the club up.

“We recognise where we’ve been but we also recognise where this club was in the past and we’re all absolutely driven to get us back there. Whatever it takes.”

Asked specifically about links to Jordon Ibe and Saido Berahino he said: “I’m not going to name any names.

“One thing I will say though is I’m always amazed about the amount of names linked with Rangers, more than any club I’ve been involved with before, and hardly any of them are ever right, so you can you take that as you will.”

And when asked if he knew how many players Rangers wanted to sign this summer, he said: “Not entirely. I heard Steven’s interview a few weeks ago and he was absolutely right in that we’re trying to do here is be as planned as we possibly can.

“Ianis was the first thing we targeted and we’ve got that done. We are working on other things. We’re keeping a close eye on the market. The market is very unpredictable – for a start the transfer window isn’t even open yet.

“It will open later as we all know and will probably extend to later as well, it can’t go any longer than 12 weeks is my understanding from FIFA, but all the dates will change.”

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Man Utd hero Denis Irwin reveals Premier League restart concern for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Manchester United’s legendary full-back Denis Irwin says his former side may not be able to continue their fine form when the Premier League resumes in June. United were unbeaten in 11 matches when football was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic in March. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side had moved up to fifth in the Premier League table, were in the quarter-final of the FA Cup, and 5-0 ahead after the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie against LASK.

It will have been over three months since United’s game at LASK when the English top flight resumes on June 17th.

Irwin believes there will be strange results as it will be like the start of a new season.

But he hopes the Red Devils can continue where they left off as much as they can.

“You just don’t know, hopefully football will get up and running,” Irwin told talkSPORT.

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“You always get strange results on the back of early season [matches] but hopefully Manchester United will keep going and get up into that Champions League position.

“It’s not easy but we need to keep going, simple as that.

“But the signings have been great and the transformation, I suppose from January, has been there to see.”

The Premier League’s chief executive Richard Masters spoke earlier this week about Project Restart.

Masters hopes games can be played as previously planned but admits the use of neutral venues is a possibility.

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“It is our preference to play the games as they were originally planned, at home and away,” Masters told Sky Sports.

“We are in discussions with the authorities, there are some concerns and we are working through those.

“In the next seven to 10 days we will have a clearer picture about whether any of our fixtures are going to have to be played in neutral venues. We hope the number will be low.

“They (the police) have legitimate concerns but we think we can mitigate some of the issues they’re trying to deal with.

“Ultimately, we want the season to be played out on the pitch and we’re discussing a number of options to make it as fair as possible.”

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What Man Utd have told Borussia Dortmund about Liverpool, Chelsea and Jadon Sancho

Manchester United have told Borussia Dortmund they’re prepared to pay more than Liverpool and Chelsea to sign Jadon Sancho in this summer’s transfer window, reports say. The England international is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s top target ahead of Jack Grealish and Jude Bellingham. And the Red Devils are determined to win the race for his signature.

Manchester United first tried to bring Sancho to Old Trafford in 2017 when he was at Manchester City, only to end up missing out to Borussia Dortmund.

And, in the time since, the 20-year-old has established himself as one of the best attacking players on the planet.

Sancho has been outstanding for Dortmund this season, scoring 14 goals and clocking up 17 assists in the Bundesliga alone.

United want to bring him to the Theatre of Dreams, believing he can do the No 7 shirt made famous by the likes of George Best, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo justice.

And 90Min claim they’ve told Dortmund they’re prepared to pay more than the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea for Sancho this summer.

Ed Woodward has previously expressed a belief that it won’t be business as usual at the club.

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But it appears that United are still prepared to flex their financial muscles by outbidding both Liverpool and Chelsea.

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard is keen on Sancho, who grew up supporting the west London giants as a child.

And Liverpool retain an interest, despite any potential move to Merseyside this summer looking unlikely.

However it’s United who are currently leading the race for Sancho, who is prepared to move back to the Premier League this summer.

Foreign suitors include Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

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But a move to England is Sancho’s preference and United are growing increasingly confident he’ll sign on the dotted line.

Meanwhile, ESPN pundit Gabriel Marcotti has backed the Red Devils to land Sancho if they’re able to get rid of Chris Smalling and Alexis Sanchez.

Both players have spent the current season in Italy at Roma and Inter Milan respectively.

And Marcotti, when asked if Paul Pogba leaving was required to raise funds, said: “I don’t really buy that.

“I don’t see those two things as related. Why they should be related.

“Basically, if you look at Manchester United’s numbers over the last few years, if you look at last season, certainly if you look at their spending, if you look at the way they have tried to work on their wage bill, I don’t see why all of a sudden it becomes imperative to sell Pogba so you can bring in Jadon Sancho.

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“Bear in mind, we don’t quite know what the transfer market is going to look like, what the numbers are going to look like, how much money it is effectively going to take to bring in Jadon Sancho.

“I think if you are United, there are certain things you want to do, but I think they are going to be just as effective.”

“If you can find a home for Alexis Sanchez and Chris Smalling, both of whom are on loan, both of whose loans expire.

“Roma would like to keep Smalling, Inter with Alexis a little bit less so.

“But those two guys together, you look at their wages and that is substantially more, for example than what Paul Pogba earns.

“Plus you get some money back, presumably for Smalling.”

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Wembley could welcome small number of fans for FA Cup final – but only on one condition

The FA Cup final could become the first match in England to welcome fans back into a stadium for nearly six months when it is held in August. Elite football in the country has been on hold since March 13 due to the coronavirus outbreak, though the Premier League is due to return on June 17 and the Championship may follow soon after.

The British government have green-lighted the return of behind-closed-doors sporting events from June 1.

Though Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told a Downing Street press conference on Saturday: “For a sporting-loving nation, today really is a significant milestone.

“We won’t be sitting in the stands for a while and things will be very different to what we’re used to but live sport will be back on our screens next week.

“The British sporting recovery has begun.”

It was thought crowds will not be able to return to Premier League stadiums until a vaccine for COVID-19 has been distributed.

That could mean as long as another 12 months with matches behind held in empty venues.

But according to the Daily Mirror, the Football Association are exploring plans to allow a maximum of 10,000 fans from each team to support their side in the FA Cup final.

The 90,000 capacity within the stadium means it is viable that fans could maintain social-distancing measures at the match.

The final is seen as a potential trial for fans to return, though will only be considered on one key condition.

That’s if the coronavirus infection rate within the United Kingdom drops below 0.5 by the time of the final, which has been provisionally pencilled in for August 1.

The latest infection rate for the UK as a whole is said to be between 0.7 and 09, according to the Sage group of advisors.

But senior Wembley officials are said to be confident there is enough space within and outside of the stadium to be able to stick to government guidelines.

London’s coronavirus numbers are in steeper decline than the rest of the country and the arena would only be 25 per cent full at a maximum.

The UK are steadily easing lockdown restrictions already and as of next week, as many as six people from two different households will be able to exercise together if they stay two metres apart.

While the Premier League could be impacted for another 12 months due to fears of a second spike of COVID-19 infections and deaths, football authorities are hopeful of getting the go-ahead for a phased experiment to allow small numbers of fans into stadiums.

The FA Cup final is seen as the ideal trial match and it is hoped, if successful, it could allow for a slow reintegration of supporters back into grounds.

English football’s governing body are not said to be looking into allowing fans at Wembley for the semi-finals of the competition, however.

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Earlier this week, the FA announced plans for its quarter-finals to take place on the weekend of June 27-28.

The semi-finals will then be held at Wembley on July 18-19 with the final two weeks’ later.

The FA’s chief executive officer Mark Bullingham said: “We are pleased to agree the provisional restart date for the 2019-20 Emirates FA Cup.

“The competition has been an integral part of the English football calendar for nearly 150 years, and we’d like to thank the Premier League executive and clubs for their support in scheduling the remaining matches during this unprecedented time.

“This has been a difficult period for many people and, while this is a positive step, the restart date is dependent on all safety measures being met. The health and wellbeing of players, staff and supporters remains our priority.”

The last eight of the FA Cup is made up entirely of Premier League teams, with the quarters having been drawn back on March 9.

Leicester City are due to host Chelsea, with Newcastle taking on the holders of the competition, Manchester United.

Arsenal travel to Sheffield United while Norwich City welcome Manchester United.

All of the matches are to be held at the grounds of the home teams.

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The two Chelsea aces who suffered most under Maurizio Sarri as players got bored and tired

Eden Hazard and Willian have been identified as two players who suffered more than most under the reign of Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea. Blues hero Gianfranco Zola claims the attacking duo had their creativity stifled by the Italian manager’s repetitive playing style.

Zola also suggests that the Chelsea players became bored and tired with Sarri’s training techniques during his time at Stamford Bridge.

The 61-year-old took over from Antonio Conte ahead of the 2018/19 season and secured Europa League glory while also steering the Blues to a top three finish, despite anger from fans over his conservative tactics.

Sarri departed for Juventus at the end of the season and Chelsea legend Zola believes the Blues players deserve credit for the way they conducted themselves during a turbulent campaign.

“At the beginning the players were very much behind everything that we were saying, they were brilliant,” Zola told beIN SPORTS.

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“They were following everything, but then as the weeks passed due to the repetition and the amount of games they were playing, the players got tired and they also got bored in a way.

“But boring is part of our job. Sometimes you need to get bored but when you get bored you persist in what you’re doing and you get better.

“I remember that when I was learning to play football, kicking a ball for example, I used to do it 300-400 times a day at least.

“There were moments when I got tired but I needed to do it repeatedly because if I wanted to become a part of me, this was the process that I needed to get through.

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“They were talented players, like Hazard and Willian, players who know how to win games on their own, but they were suffering from the type of exercises and type of training we were doing – but it was necessary for the others.

“I’ll be honest, they were brilliant because they got bored, but they kept doing it throughout and that was the reason why when everyone was dropping we were going up towards the end.”

Zola, who scored 80 goals in 311 games for Chelsea, was assistant to Sarri throughout the 2018/19 campaign.

However, the former playmaker departed when Frank Lampard was appointed manager last summer.

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The ex-England midfielder has enjoyed a promising first season in the Chelsea hot-seat, with the Blues currently sat third in the Premier League.

His side are also into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and the last 16 of the Champions League, although they have to overturn a 3-0 deficit against Bayern Munich.

Lampard has ushered in a new generation of talent at Stamford Bridge this term, with Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Reece James all enjoying plenty of game time.

Billy Gilmour has also experienced a breakthrough campaign while Callum Hudson-Odoi is expected to nail down a starting berth next season after a year plagued by injuries.

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Premier League return on June 17 given green light but stars reminded of social distancing

Premier League players have been reminded by the British government that they must adhere to social distancing guidelines “wherever possible” on the pitch – with Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden declaring that “the British sporting recovery has begun” after the league was given the green light to return behind closed doors on Saturday.

Dowden used the United Kingdom’s daily coronavirus news briefing to confirm the return of live sport next week, insisting that the English top flight is also safe to resume on June 17 provided it follows strict protocols.

Manchester City vs Arsenal and Aston Villa vs Sheffield United will kick the season off on Wednesday June 17 with a full round of fixtures the following weekend.

All 92 matches remaining of the campaign will be shown live on TV across Sky Sports, BT Sport, BBC Sport and Amazon Prime, with 29 of those games shown for free.

It is hoped that the Premier League campaign will be concluded on August 2, provided the country does not suffer a second spike of COVID-19 before then.

And the government have released guidelines that insist “social distancing should be maintained by all groups where possible” during events.

Players must celebrate two metres apart and cannot get into close disputes with match officials or opposition, with the competing athletes and support staff on the bench all expected to stay socially distanced.

Players and staff will also be regularly tested as part of a number of requirements the league must meet.

Dowden declared from 10 Downing Street: “I’m delighted to announce today that the government has published guidance which allows competitive sport to resume behind closed doors from Monday at the earliest and crucially only when it is safe to do so.

“It’s up to each individual sport to decide exactly when to resume competition, they know their sports best.

“Football, tennis, horse racing, Formula One, cricket, golf, rugby and snookers are all set to return to our screens shortly with horse racing first out of the gate in the north east next week.

“It’s been a huge challenge to get to this point. We’ve taken a forensic, clinician-led approach, working with Public Health England and the Department of Health every step along the way.

“We’ve had dozens of meetings and published pages of detailed guidance outlining first how to get elite athletes back into socially-distanced training and then back into contact training.

“Throughout all of this we’ve put the safety of athletes, coaches and support staff first and foremost.

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“By working so closely with the sports themselves we’ve made sure that it’s been a collaborative, consensual effort to create the safest possible environments for everyone involved safe.

“The guidance outlines various measures that need to be in place for an event to go ahead and to keep everyone involved safe.

“That includes a screening process for coronavirus symptoms at the venue, a one-way system for people in vehicles, minimising the use of dressing rooms and of course, maintaining social distancing wherever that is possible.

“As all sports fully recognise, ensuring the mental health of their athletes and staff is as important as their physical health, particularly in these difficult times and our guidance today reinforces that.

“It’s taken a lot of hard work to get us here today so thank you to everyone involved and I know that this will be welcome news to many.”

On the return of the Premier League in particular, Dowden added: “Of course much of the media attention has focused on football because it has that special place in our national life and recognising its significance I set two challenges for football’s return.

“First, that a reasonable number of remaining Premier League games would be broadcast free to air and second, that the financial benefits of returning would be shared throughout the entire football family.

“So I’m glad to confirm today that a third of matches to finish the season will now be free to view, including the Liverpool vs Everton derby and live Premier League football will be on the BBC for the first time in its history.

“This is an open invitation for all fans to be part of this significant moment in our sporting history.

“It also of course has serious public health benefit of encouraging people to watch at home, which will be essential.

“Getting top leagues back up and running will also release much-needed funding to support clubs lower down, many of whom are cornerstones of their local communities.

“With both of these benefits, I can now make it official – football is coming back.

“Of course, these headline sporting events are only one part of the story. I really am keenly aware that even as we reopen some competitive domestic fixtures, not all events will be back on.”

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters responded: “The Premier League welcomes the government’s announcement today.

“We have provisionally planned to restart the Premier League on 17 June, but there is still much work to be done to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

“This includes consulting with our clubs, players and managers – along with all our other stakeholders – as the health and welfare of our participants and supporters is our priority.

“If all goes well, we will be thrilled to resume the 2019-20 season in just over two weeks’ time.”

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Dowden also confirmed his desire to ensure that women’s sports do not suffer in the coming months, with the Women’s Super League having had to be cancelled following “overwhelming feedback from clubs”, in the words of the Football Association.

The FA added that the decision – which is expected to see Chelsea crowned as champions – was made “in the best interest of the women’s game”.

Dowden continued: “Given the deserved momentum that had built up behind women’s sports after football, cricket and netball World Cups, I will be working hard with the sports minister to make sure we don’t lose any of that progress.

“Visibility matters and our daughters deserve to see female athletes on the main stage.

“For a sporting-loving nation, today really is a significant milestone. We won’t be sitting in the stands for a while and things will be very different to what we’re used to but live sport will be back on our screens next week. The British sporting recovery has begun.”

The government are also eager to kickstart the return of grassroots sports and excercising will now be allowed with up to five people from different households, provided they all remain 2m apart during.

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