Police chief calls on Premier League clubs objecting to neutral venues to 'get a grip'

The police chief in charge of football in England has told Premier League club bosses who oppose finishing the season at neutral venues they “need to get a grip”.

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts believes those who say the proposal compromises the integrity of the league need to look at the broader context, where the country has seen over 30,000 deaths and is still rising.

“We’ve all got a responsibility, yes to make progress for the benefit of the country, but equally to do it in a way that minimises the risk that anything we do adds to that death toll,” Deputy Chief Constable Roberts said.

Roberts has been in constant contact with his German counterparts as the Bundesliga is set to restart well before the Premier League. The difference there is that teams are being allowed to play home and away. “Each country in this pandemic is trying to do the best based on the evidence for their particular context.” Additionally saying that while he’s fully behind football’s return, it has to come with conditions

“We shouldn’t be coming up with any plans that place at risk a single further family losing a loved one to facilitate football. It can’t be acceptable if we ended up in a situation where, in effect, we’ve got coffins for goalposts. We need to keep the public safe. Football is important but not that important."

Deputy Chief Constable Roberts also called on players and clubs to get the right message out to fans when the first game draws nearer. He accepts that it would be natural to want to travel to a stadium where your team is playing or celebrate a famous win at your home ground even if it doesn’t take place there, but he warns the league that if that did happen, games could be abandoned.

“If there is an attraction it increases the risk of people going to a venue. Football engenders passions; if a team wins a league, gets relegated or wins a cup. I think, being realistic, people will travel. What we need to do is to try to minimise that by having sensible locations. Making it clear it’s not going to happen if too many people turn up and start presenting a risk. But that’s a decision for football, not the police.”

Football has many hurdles to leap over before a model, acceptable to everyone involved, is signed off.

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