Premier League Overcomes Opposition

Gordon Luo, Staff Reporter

The effect of COVID-19 on televised soccer around the world has affected billions of people. The English Premier League, or EPL, which is the top level of the English football league system, was hit hard. The EPL is the most watched sports league in the entire world, pulling in an estimated audience of 4.7 billion people in over 643 million homes. During the start of the pandemic, the league was forced to suspend matches in March until the action returned in June. The return of the Premier League, dubbed “Project Restart”, was sure to be a new experience for viewers and the players with the inevitable change in rules and regulations.

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) approved of many new rules to the . For the remainder of the 19-20 season, five substitutions were allowed, rather than the normal three, and drink breaks were allowed within each half. These rules were made to assist with player fitness due to the break. IFAB recalled these rules for the new 20-21 season. The biggest changes from IFAB were in the realm of VAR. Video Assistant Referees have sparked countless controversies, even before the pandemic hit. VAR helps with the on-field referee with decisions of infringement, meaning that a scored goal could not count after VAR reviews it. Goalkeeper and field player encroachment on penalty kicks have been changed. If a keeper saves a penalty but has his foot over the line, VAR will chop the goal off. If any players not taking the penalty step over the penalty area, it will be considered encroachment as well. Also, the offside flag will be kept down for tight offside calls. If a goal is scored during that time, the assistant will then raise the flag to signify a potential offside for VAR to check.

With these changes, postponed matches, and tight game schedules, this season could potentially be the hardest in a while. A lot of matches must be played in a short amount of time, not to mention most clubs are participating in other competitions, such as the Champions League, FA Cup, Europa League, and Carabao Cup. For safety, players and staff are tested at least twice a week. With new changes, come increased skepticism. “One guy is isolated and the group has to continue. So, I don’t know. We follow what the people say at the club, the Premier League. We follow the rules. That is what it is.” Manchester City’s head manager, Pep Guardiola, said. Guardiola expressed his confusion on the risks being taken continuing the league during this time. Although a lot can be discussed about the current situation and season, many viewers are ecstatic about the return of the English Premier League!