After months without top-flight action, the Premier League is destined to return on 17th June, starting with Aston Villa vs. Sheffield United and Manchester City vs. Arsenal this Thursday.
However, due to the nature of the pandemic, several stipulations have been implemented to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all involved. Quite a lot has changed, so here's what to expect from now until the end of the season...
1. Players and staff are to be tested for COVID-19 twice every week.
All personnel at the football clubs will be tested for coronavirus biweekly, in an attempt to prevent the pandemic from spreading. If an individual tests positive, they will be told to self-isolate immediately.
However, if the examination is negative, the player or member of staff will be issued with a 'clinical passport', permitting them to attend the ground on match-day.
2. Each stadium will be divided into zones, with restricted access for certain staff members.
The Premier League has stated that no more than 300 people will be allowed in a stadium at any one time. However, in order to restrict interactivity further, the authorities have created three separate zones.
The most restricted areas of the stadium (the pitch, the tunnel, the technical areas and the changing rooms) are to be referred to as the red zone. No more than 110 people will be permitted access and individuals must display their 'clinical passport' before entering.
The amber zone represents the remainder of the facilities located inside the stadium. Due to prior contractual agreements, a limited number of broadcasters and journalists will be permitted to enter the amber zone and navigate their way through a maze of intricate one-way systems.
Finally, the stadium's exterior will be known as the green zone, reserved for maintenance and security.
3. Players and staff are not required to wear masks off the pitch.
It will not be compulsory for Premier League personnel to wear masks whilst sitting on the bench or standing in the technical area, which opposes the stringent regulations put in place by the Bundesliga in Germany. However, individuals are able to wear protective clothing if they wish, so it will be interesting to see which players and coaches opt to wear masks out of choice.
However, the Premier League has deemed it mandatory for all medical staff to sport masks, as they may be forced to sustain contact with players for longer periods of time in the event of an injury.
4. Social distancing and good hygiene will be actively encouraged as much as possible.
Although every restriction has been put in place to ensure social distancing is practised off the pitch, players will inevitably come into contact during a game. However, the league has urged players to keep their distance from the referee at all times and to celebrate goals on their own, which may take some getting used to for spectators.
In terms of hygiene, handshakes are prohibited at the start of matches and players are required to sanitise their hands after leaving the field. Perhaps stating the obvious, the Premier League has also discouraged the act of spitting and nose-clearing during the games.
5. The league will pay tribute to the frontline workers and coronavirus victims.
On 11th June, the Premier League announced that the first round of fixtures will begin with a minute's silence to remember those who have lost their lives during the pandemic. Furthermore, it was stated that each player will wear a heart-shaped emblem upon their kit to thank the NHS staff for their service on the frontline.
Players have also been discussing the possibility of a Black Lives Matter tribute with the Premier League but nothing official has yet been finalised.
6. Away teams are encouraged to travel on the day of the fixture, but may use hotels if necessary.
Although footballers are still technically able to spend the night in a hotel before the game, they are actively discouraged unless essential. Therefore, on match-day, most clubs will use two coaches to transport the team and include the drivers in their coronavirus testing.
7. Neutral stadiums may be used for certain matches.
In theory, most of the remaining fixtures will be played at the clubs' own stadiums, in an attempt to save whatever's left of home team advantage. However, if a ground is deemed unsafe by the emergency services and safety advisory groups, a game may have to be carried out at a neutral stadium in order to complete the fixture.
8. All games are to be televised, with some fixtures scheduled for terrestrial TV.
Fortunately, a deal has been made between SkySports, BT Sport, the BBC and Prime Video to ensure that all remaining fixtures can be watched on the small screen. Whilst subscription services still dominate the marketplace, the British public are being treated to the occasional game on terrestrial television, starting with the BBC's coverage of Bournemouth vs. Crystal Palace on 20th June.
Additionally, as trialled in the Bundesliga last weekend, spectators will have the option to add artificial crowd sounds during the game, if they wish.
9. Each manager can make up to five substitutions per game and name a total of nine on the bench.
This is perhaps the most intriguing alteration from a tactical standpoint, as managers have now been given more leniency in their use of substitutions. Although they are usually limited to three per match, each boss is now able to rotate more frequently, which may tempt certain managers to alter their tactics more aggressively or quickly.
It goes without saying, of course, that the increase in substitutions has been implemented to protect the players, rather than to add another tactical dimension for the coaches.
10. Managers will continue to hold post-match press conferences.
After the final whistle, broadcasters and journalists have been given permission to interview the managers around the perimeter of the pitch and from a safe distance, once the players have exited through the tunnel. However, these conversations will be kept as brief as possible, with the longer press conferences occurring over video call.
What are your views on the regulations? Is there a particular game you're looking forward to from the opening fixtures? Let us know in the comments!