• Woodward ‘optimistic’ over Premier League return in June

    Chief Executive of Manchester United Ed Woodward

    Manchester United are “optimistic” Premier League games will resume in June and that the Europa League can be completed in August, Ed Woodward has confirmed.

    The club returned to training in socially-distanced groups at their Carrington base on Wednesday, with meticulous coronavirus testing in place.

    And with United in an ongoing dialogue with the Premier League, the FA and UEFA, there is hope action can resume behind closed doors next month.

    “We are optimistic it will soon be possible to resume playing football and our men’s first team has commenced a phased return to training this week with rigorous medical protocols in place to manage risk,” Woodward, the club’s executive vice-chairman, told investors during a call on Wednesday.

    “Subject to government and Premier League shareholder approval, with input from medical staff and players, we anticipate domestic games could restart in June.

    “Furthermore, all indications from UEFA are that the culmination of the Europa League could be during August.

    “We remain in constant dialogue with the Premier League, the FA and UEFA about the next steps towards returning to playing while continuing to protect the health of our players, staff and wider public.

    “We are encouraged by the return of the German Bundesliga, the first major European league to restart last weekend, with the successful completion of nine matches all behind closed doors.”

    In their quarterly financial report released on Thursday morning, the club announced that the financial impact up until March 31 was an estimated loss of £23m ($28m) due to money needing to be paid back to broadcasters for unplayed games, the postponement of fixtures and the temporary closure of the club shop and museum.

    “Our results reflect the partial impact the pandemic has had on the club. While clearly the greater impact will be in the current quarter and likely beyond,” Woodward said.

    “We remain firmly optimistic for the long-term prospects for the club and for our exciting young team once we have worked our way through what is undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary and testing periods in the 142-year history of Manchester United.”

    It was also confirmed that United will not be participating in their usual pre-season tour this summer, which would usually earn the club millions. But despite the impact and challenges ahead, Woodward remains confident the Red Devils have the right structure in place to weather the storm.

    “There are still profound challenges ahead for football as a whole and it is safe to say it will not be business as usual for some time. Our club is built on solid foundations, we remain one of the most popular teams and one of the most followed and we have created a strong financial base,” he said.

    “However, the repercussions of the pandemic are now being felt widely across the footballing community. Not just by clubs but by players, broadcasters, sponsors and many other stakeholders.

    “We have a shared interest in protecting our sport during this period. It’s crucial we work together in a period of solidarity to maximise our chances of coming back strongly when the pandemic recedes.

    “We must recognise that this pandemic will not disappear overnight and the world which is emerging will be different to how it was before.

    “That will create challenges for football, like many other industries, but also brings an opportunity for innovation and creativity as we explore options for resuming football in ways that still protect public health.”

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