Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, confirmed the government’s push for some matches to be available freely with subscription services BT Sports and Sky Sports the other broadcasters of Premier League games.
Despite some lockdown restrictions behind lifted in certain parts of the country, in a bid to stop fans leaving home on a matchday, Dowden feels free-to-air games can help reach a wide number of supporters.
‘We are working hard with them to try and get it back, I am aiming for mid-June,’ he said on Sky News on Monday morning.
‘The number one test is public safety.
‘I’m hoping that we can have something a bit more ambitious with some more free-to-air matches available so people can watch from home because that would be helpful in terms of discouraging people from leaving their homes.
‘What we are aiming for is to finish the season from behind closed doors from mid June onwards.’
Every Premier League side are meeting on Monday to vote on how training will work and to agree protocol to protect players and staff amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The government announced as part of their exit strategy that professional sport could return in some capacity from June 1, with the Premier League originally working towards a June 12 restart.
Germany’s Bundesliga was the first major European league to return to action at the weekend behind closed doors and they showed a pathway to resuming the campaign.
Many top players have raised concerns about returning to training and then action so soon after, with Raheem Sterling stating that stars would need ‘four to five weeks’ before they could play – casting doubt on a mid-June restart.
‘They are saying games started by June 12,’ the City and England winger said on Sunday on his YouTube channel.
‘You can’t come back in with one-and-a-half or two weeks (of training). You’d need a full four to five weeks, especially if you’re going to go back into competition.
‘You’re not playing friendlies, you’re playing to win. It’s going to count for something. You do need to do that preparation definitely – you can’t just go straight in.
‘I know the clubs are in talks and doing their best to try and find the best resolution for this. But we’ve had a few meetings cancelled, even on Zoom, to talk about the restart so we just have to wait and see.’
Meanwhile, Brighton boss Graham Potter has also aired some reservations about a possible return to training next week.
The south coast club have had three players test positive for COVID-19 and have been one of the most vocal critics to Project Restart, namely the suggestion that games could take place at neutral venues.
But with the focus now on a return to training, Potter is seeking more ‘clarity’.
Potter said: ‘There are concerns, of course, because we’ve come out of lockdown, the situation isn’t totally resolved.
‘I’ve got a young family, my wife’s family have health issues so there are concerns there but there are concerns all over the country as well at the moment, which I recognise.
‘But we’re human beings like everybody else, we need that clarity if we can.’
Fourteen of the 20 clubs would need to vote to pass the new training protocol for it to be enacted.