The English Football League has announced that the Sky Bet Championship is set for a June 20 resumption after a provisional return date was officially agreed following lengthy talks.
The Premier League announced on Thursday that play is due to return on June 17 following the coronavirus suspension that began in mid-March.
The EFL followed suit on Sunday evening, announcing that the Championship is set to restart around the same time.
In a statement, the EFL said: “Following Saturday’s announcement by the Government to allow elite sporting events to return behind closed doors, the EFL has this weekend agreed to a provisional restart date of the weekend of 20 June 2020 for matches in the Sky Bet Championship.
“The date is subject to the strict proviso that all safety requirements and Government guidance is met; and that clubs receive clearance from their local authorities in order to stage matches at their home grounds.
“After discussing various approaches, and, the importance of completing the season in a similar timeline to that of the Premier League to avoid any potential issues with promoted and relegated clubs, the Sky Bet Championship season is set to conclude with the Championship play-off final on or around 30 July 2020.
“Final details are still to be confirmed following further discussions with the League’s Broadcast partner, Sky Sports.”
The EFL also revealed that it will consider the use of five substitutes in the remaining fixtures and increasing the matchday squad from 18 to 20 players, with discussions “to continue with Championship clubs in this respect”.
The schedule, broadcast selection and streaming availability will follow, with EFL chair Rick Parry pleased to be able to welcome back the Championship.
“With Sky Bet Championship clubs set to return to full contact training later this week and following Saturday’s Government announcement, we are edging closer towards resuming the 2019/20 EFL season,” he said.
“We have therefore today consulted with the board’s Championship directors and agreed to fixtures restarting behind closed doors on 20 June.
“Whilst matches will unfortunately have to take place without supporters, we are working with our broadcast partners, EFL Championship clubs and all relevant stakeholders to broadcast the remaining 108 games plus Sky Bet Championship play-offs either live on Sky Sports, iFollow or a club’s equivalent streaming service.
“We must stress that at this stage the date is only provisional and will only be confirmed once we have met all the requirements, as the health, safety and well-being of all participants, staff and supporters remains our top priority.
“Clearly completing the season in a safe manner is going to require a significant effort by all concerned and, whilst not unprecedented, it will need clubs to play a significant number of matches over a relatively short period of time.”
Leeds and West Brom sit in the automatic promotion places, while Charlton, Luton and Barnsley are in line for the drop with nine matches apiece remaining.
The EFL announced on Saturday that 10 positive Covid-19 tests had been returned in the Championship, including Preston’s Jayden Stockley, an unnamed Fulham player, a member of staff at Cardiff and one unnamed individual at Middlesbrough.
Eight Championship clubs returned positive tests, from a total base of 1,058 tests, while seven more cases came in League Two from just 135 tests across four clubs. League One does not currently have a testing programme in place.
League One and League Two clubs will have the chance to decide whether to curtail the season amid the coronavirus pandemic on June 8.
Mings makes strong claim over Premier League return
Meanwhile, Aston Villa defender Tyrone Mings believes the Premier League’s return is driven by money.
“Project Restart is financially driven,” the England international told the Daily Mail. “I think everybody accepts that.
“But that’s fine with me because I look at this monster that is Premier League football and the revenue it creates and I didn’t moan about being a part of it when everything was great so I’m not going to moan now when the atmosphere around the game is more hesitant.
“I am all for playing again because we have no other choice.
“As players, we were the last people to be consulted about Project Restart and that is because of where we fall in football’s order of priority. That isn’t a problem.
“We got the option to come back to training and that’s fine because we didn’t have to but if the FA and the EFL and the government and UEFA and the Premier League all say you are going back to play, it really doesn’t make any difference what the players think because you’re going back to play.”
Spain’s top flight is among those soon returning to action, with LaLiga confirming that third-placed Sevilla’s clash with bitter rivals Real Betis will kick-off the restart on Thursday 11 June.
Leaders Barcelona will get their title tilt back under way at Real Mallorca on June 13, before welcoming Leganes to the Nou Camp three days later.
Real Madrid – just two points behind Barca in second spot – have back-to-back home matches upon LaLiga’s resumption, with Eibar arriving on June 14 and Valencia on June 18.