The Premier League’s campaign to scrap the plan for neutral venues appears to have been successful. Sources say the country’s top football police officer Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts has softened his stance on insisting that behind closed doors matches to finish the season are not played at home grounds.
Officials from the police, Premier League, the government and stadium safety groups met on Monday night and it seems Roberts was persuaded that playing in home stadia was not necessarily a public health or security risk.
Roberts hinted at a U-turn in a statement, saying “…we will be jointly exploring a range of options to identify a way forward, which minimises any risks to public safety and unnecessary pressure on public services, but facilitates a sensible restart to the season, to support the economic and morale benefits associated with the sport.”
Last week Roberts told ITV News that those complaining about the damage to the integrity of the Premier League if only a small selection of neutral venues were to be used to finish the season should “get a grip.”
Roberts' change in tone follows a meeting of Premier League owners on Monday who agreed they would all rather play at both home and away grounds if and when the season gets going again.
There will be a requirement for clubs to issue strong messaging to their fans not to turn up at grounds when teams are playing, or risk having matched abandoned. The fear was that crowds would gather outside stadia causing a public health risk and a drain on police resources.