Carabao Cup early rounds under threat unless next season can begin before

Early rounds of the Carabao Cup are under threat if next season does not get underway before the beginning of September.

The Premier League has a deadline of September 12 as the latest possible start date for the 2020-21 campaign without the ‘integrity’ of the competition being affected. It needs to have 34 weekends and four midweeks free to complete the programme of matches with European fixtures, cup matches and internationals to try and fit in ahead of Euro 2020 which kicks off on June 11, 2021.

The Premier League has been working towards starting the new season on August 22 if its plans to complete this campaign under Project Restart go ahead, but that already looks like slipping. It needs seven weekends and two midweek rounds to complete the 92 outstanding games plus the FA Cup.

If the season resumes on June 19 it would be completed around the first weekend in August with a four-week pre-season break before the next season’s planned start date of around August 29, although an added complication is that, as things stand, there is an international break scheduled from September 2 to 8. However that is clearly under threat and is unlikely to be retained.

Already the timetable is tight and with the first two rounds of the Carabao Cup – with those Premier League teams not taking part in European competition joining in the second – traditionally taking place in August, it may prove impossible to find new dates. Premier League teams in Europe usually take part in the third round in September with a late start to the season already putting the usual format of the competition in jeopardy. It may mean, for example, that all the Premier League sides have to enter the competition later although the English Football League will fight to maintain the competition as it stands because the revenue is crucial to its lower league clubs even if the games will all be played behind closed doors.

The concern for the Premier League and the EFL, which still hopes to play out the Championship programme for 2019-20, is that there is already so little room for manoeuvre in the calendar, especially if there are any delays or set-backs in the plans to restart the season.

“Every decision made this end affects that end,” a senior source said. “And already it looks like they might have to play around with the early rounds of the Carabao Cup.”

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