Premier League football is poised to return after a three-month shutdown, with top-flight games in England provisionally set to resume on Wednesday, June 17.
The resumption of soccer in England follows Germany’s Bundesliga, which began play last week. It adds momentum to a comeback of sports, with several North American leagues also making plans to find a way back to play. Serie A, which has been suspended since March 10 in hard-hit Italy, announced on Thursday that it would also return, on June 20.
The Premier League’s return would come after weeks of uncertainty amid disagreement among teams over the possibilities. Germany’s successful return to action earlier this month, with the league completing two rounds of action without incident, helped build consensus among executives of England’s leading teams who would have faced huge losses should the season be called off.
The agreement still requires final clearance from British authorities.
In recent days, momentum had been building that the league would return to action after similar moves to complete the season without fans in a growing number of leagues across Europe. English teams earlier this week agreed to protocols for the resumption of full contact practice, a necessary step before competing in games again.
The first games on the schedule will be Aston Villa hosting Sheffield United and Arsenal’s visit to Manchester City. Those games were postponed earlier in the season because of a clash in the calendar.
Several setbacks had suggested that the Premier League might not find a solution to completing the season. Some players raised doubts about returning to action during the pandemic, and a number of smaller teams objected to the possibility of having to play the remaining games at neutral sites. Some of the more high-profile games are almost certain to be played at secondary venues to help manage crowds.
Shanghai Shenhua Sign Obafemi Martins To Replace Odion Ighalo
Shanghai Shenhua have completed the signing of former Inter Milan and Nigeria forward Obafemi Martins, who returns for a second stint after playing for the Chinese Super League side between 2016 and 2018, Goal reports.
The 35-year-old forward rejoins the team as a replacement for compatriot Odion Ighalo, whose loan deal at Manchester United has been extended until 2021.
On Wednesday, Obafemi shared a video of himself on Instagram, wearing Shenhua kit with the rest of the squad, and a source close to the player has confirmed to Goal that he has been re-signed in a playing capacity.
Having left Seattle Sounders in 2015, Martins scored 32 goals in 59 games across all competitions for the Chinese heavyweights, while playing a key role in the Hongkou Football Stadium giants’ Chinese FA Cup success in 2017.
However, he left the Shanghai-based team in 2018 after suffering a hamstring injury, and has been without a club ever since.
Ighalo was loaned to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Red Devils on a temporary loan deal on the final day of the January transfer window as a replacement for injured Marcus Rashford.
Having impressed in his eight appearances before lockdown and the subsequent postponement of football – scoring four goals in three starts – the club extended his loan until January 2021.
Martins’ return will strengthen Choi Kang-hee men’s attack ahead of the resumption of the Chinese Super League.
Drogba’s Election Hopes Suffer Serious Blow
Didier Drogba’s hope of becoming the next president of the Ivory Coast’s football federation has suffered a serious setback after the failure of his fellow players to support his candidacy.
Drogba, 42, is one of three candidates standing for election as president of the Ivorian Football Federation in September but is yet to win the endorsement of any of the five special interest groups needed to get onto the ballot.
He was expecting to be backed by the footballers’ union, headed by former team mate Cyrille Domoraud but they are supporting Idriss Diallo, one of the two other candidates.
“The majority of our members decided to grant our endorsement to the list led by Mr. Idriss Diallo,” said a statement by the Association of Ivorian Footballers, adding they were remaining loyal to a grouping formed three years ago to contest the elections, before Drogba had declared his candidacy.
Diallo had also previously received the backing of the local coaches’ association.
Drogba has also failed to win the endorsement of the referees and the association of former professionals, who are supporting rival Sory Diabate.
The former striker must now receive the endorsement of the association of football medical practitioners to be able to stand in the election on Sept. 5. Their decision is expected in the coming weeks.
On top of the endorsement of one of the special interest groups, candidates must also be nominated by three of the 14 Ligue 1 clubs and two from the lower divisions.
Drogba played in three World Cups with the Ivory Coast and twice helped them to the final of the Africa Cup of Nations and also earns cult status among fans for his exploits with Chelsea in the Premier League and Champions League.
CAS Lifts Manchester City’s Champions League Ban
Manchester City will be free to play Champions League football next season after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) lifted a two-season ban from European competitions imposed by UEFA on Monday.
An initial fine of 30 million euros ($34 million, £27 million) was also reduced to 10 million euros on appeal.
City were accused of deliberately inflating the value of income from sponsors with links to the Abu Dhabi United Group, also owned by City owner Sheikh Mansour, to avoid falling foul of financial fair play (FFP) regulations between 2012 and 2016.
The case against City was reopened when German magazine Der Spiegel published a series of leaked emails in 2018.
However, CAS found that “most of the alleged breaches reported by the Adjudicatory Chamber of the CFCB (UEFA Club Financial Control Body) were either not established or time-barred”.
City welcomed the decision that will have huge ramifications on the club’s finances and potentially the future of manager Pep Guardiola and star players such as Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling.
“Whilst Manchester City and its legal advisors are yet to review the full ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the club welcomes the implications of today’s ruling as a validation of the club’s position and the body of evidence that it was able to present,” City said in a statement.
“The club wishes to thank the panel members for their diligence and the due process that they administered.”
Since Sheikh Mansour’s takeover 12 years ago, City’s fortunes have been transformed from perennially living in the shadow of local rivals Manchester United to winning four Premier League titles in the past eight years among 11 major trophies.
On Saturday, they secured qualification for the Champions League for a 10th consecutive season with a 5-0 win at Brighton.
More silverware could come before the end of the season as Guardiola’s side face Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-finals on Saturday before restarting their Champions League campaign in August, holding a 2-1 lead over Real Madrid from the first leg of their last 16 tie.
City’s victory in court will raise fresh questions over how effectively UEFA can police FFP.
But European football’s governing body said it remained committed to the system which limits clubs to not losing more than 30 million euros, with exceptions for some costs such as youth development and women’s teams, over a three-year period.
“UEFA notes that the CAS panel found that there was insufficient conclusive evidence to uphold all of the CFCB’s conclusions in this specific case and that many of the alleged breaches were time-barred due to the five-year time period foreseen in the UEFA regulations,” UEFA said in a statement.
“Over the last few years, Financial Fair Play has played a significant role in protecting clubs and helping them become financially sustainable and UEFA and ECA remain committed to its principles.”
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