Premier League clubs push to scrap end of season neutral venues plan

Premier League clubs will try to persuade the government to allow them to finish the season using home grounds.

The league had identified up to 10 neutral venues away from populated areas to allay police fears that fans would congregate at their own stadia if teams played home matches.

While it was understood the ‘home and away’ battle had been lost, now the clubs want to push harder to play games where they were originally scheduled, and to protect the integrity of the competition as far as they can.

Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters told a media briefing on Monday, shortly after clubs met via teleconference that “everyone would prefer to play home and away if at all possible but it’s clear to see some clubs feel more strongly about that than others. It’s an ongoing dialogue, we are in contact with the authorities and representing club views in those discussions.”

But Masters added it is about the League trying to convince the authorities that home and away is a safe way to proceed:

“It’s not a matter of convincing, because we need to listen to each other.

I think some of our clubs would argue that in relation to policing their own fans that they have a good relationship with them, and that they encourage their own fans not to turn up outside their home venues while they’re playing behind closed doors, and they’re in a better position to control that, but it’s not a matter of convincing, this has to be a decision that’s come to mutually.”

Clubs believe their fans will listen to strong messaging and that will dissuade them from turning up to grounds where a game is going on.

The ambition might receive short shrift from Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, England’s most senior officer in charge of football, who last week told ITV News that any club executive talking about the integrity of the Premier League while tens of thousands of people were dying of Coronavirus should “Get a grip.”

Other significant developments during a wide-ranging meeting was discussion for the first time about ‘curtailment’ if the season can’t be completed.

Greg Clarke spoke at the meeting. Credit: PA

The FA chairman Greg Clarke said that for the sake of maintaining integrity the league should not consider voiding the season or contemplate a solution that didn’t include relegation to the Championship.

Clarke also urged clubs to consider how they would work out final places under a ‘sporting merit’ model, demanded by Uefa, if ‘Project Restart’ couldn’t be seen through to the end.

The meeting spent time too discussing the medical protocols that have been devised from the moment player training starts in small groups, through to full contact sessions as the first game approaches, scheduled for June 12th.

Masters though cautioned against inking that date in the diary: “I really wouldn’t want to make a prediction now.

"Clearly we have plans but they’re all flexible. I think before you've even decided to go back to training that it isn’t right to start to talk about when we think we’re going to get back to playing.

"There are many steps to be taken, many hurdles to get over before we get to that point. And of course part of the government’s announcement yesterday was about the direction of travel of Covide itself might frustrate those plans.”

A blueprint outlining medical recommendations will be circulated to all players and managers in the next few days and they will get an opportunity to discuss their concerns with the league’s lead medical team later in the week.