The Premier League returns tonight; rugby needs spectators more than soccer does

The Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

The premier league restarts tonight with Aston Villa v Sheffield United and Manchester City v Arsenal. Photograph: PA

The premier league restarts tonight with Aston Villa v Sheffield United and Manchester City v Arsenal. Photograph: PA

The English Premier League returns tonight, first with Aston Villa v Sheffield United at 6pm and then Manchester City host Arsenal at 8.15pm. Both games are on Sky Sports. “Welcome to 92 live games in six summer weeks, to deserted stands, video walls and the strangling of the post-match quotes industry. Welcome to the new abnormal normal. And yet for all the disquiet in getting to the start line, it is impossible not to feel fascinated by the prospect.” Here in Ireland the FAI will today resume their efforts to secure an agreement with clubs to get the Airtricity League up and running again. There may be an attempt to compress the proposed conclusion of the season so that it starts in early August then ends in late October or early November. The FAI is also hoping to be allowed sell almost 18,500 tickets for its game against Finland in the event that Uefa confirms a September kick-off for the second edition of the Nations League.

Darragh Ó Sé’s weekly column returns today and he explains why a Kingdom without football is very hard to get your head around (Subscriber only): “As we sit here now, it looks like we’re going to get some games after all. The appetite for games is huge. The first Junior B game will be an all-ticket affair. When the inter-county stuff starts up, we’ll be wearing heavier coats and woollier hats but that’s no hardship either.” The GAA has announced plans for its 2020 Cúl Camps and a television series build-up on TG4. Camps will start on 20th July, which is Phase 4 of the lockdown relaxation schedule. As long as the Government maintain the two-metre ruling on social distancing it will not make any financial sense for the IRFU, the provinces or the ground controllers to open the Aviva Stadium to rugby spectators on match days. Gerry Thornley explains why rugby needs matchday spectators more than soccer does, and “as two-metre distancing would restrict the capacity to 8,200, the ensuing gate receipts would scarcely, if even, cover the costs of opening the stadium.” The IRFU will begin a programme of testing players and staff from Leinster and Munster on Wednesday for Covid-19 in advance of their return to training in their respective High Performance Centres next Monday.

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