One of the big plans behind getting the 2019-20 Premier League season going again is playing the 92 games across neutral stadiums.
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Some teams have raised concerns with that plan but reports are emerging that certain factors are being considered when it comes to picking up to 10 stadiums.
Our partners at Sky Sports in the UK say that the English Football Association’s St George’s Park base is not being considered for PL games, while factors such as small corridors in stadium, having all of the modern updates, likelihood of fans congregating outside, infection rates in the surrounding areas and similar travel times for both teams are being considered.
The UK government has currently set lockdown measures until May 7 and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will now give his next update on Sunday, May 10.
The next Premier League club meeting will be on Monday, May 11 to move ‘project restart’ to the next phase, and possibly vote on resuming the season. All 20 Premier League clubs have so far agreed that they want to finish the current season but only when things improve and it is safe to play again.
Below is a look at the neutral stadiums which could meet the criteria and host the 92 matches which will complete the 2019-20 season. One thing to remember here: the 72 professional teams in the English Football League may not need their stadiums as they may not be able to finish their seasons, so maybe some of those could be used to help the Premier League finish its campaign. Keep that in mind.
Brighton – Amex Stadium
Even though they are one of the teams against using a neutral venue, Brighon’s Amex home is perfectly set up for a situation like this. Located way out of town and close to main roads, the Amex Stadium is totally isolated and its entrance and exit can be controlled.
London – Wembley Stadium
Not a Premier League stadium but is obviously able to host events with supreme efficiency. It is located in a heavily populated area but it can be controlled much better compared to the Emirates Stadium (but Arsenal’s home could also be an option), Stamford Bridge, Selhurst Park and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. Wembley could be key to this plan as the six Premier League teams from the London area would not have to travel far for games and it would be a neutral for all PL clubs.
Manchester – Etihad Stadium
Close enough to the center of Manchester and populated areas but there is a natural buffer around the stadium and the environment can be controlled. With the City Football Academy also connected via a footbridge, the smaller stadium on that site (used for the academy and women’s team) could also be a handy option.
London – London Stadium
Anybody who has been to the London Stadium knows it is almost an island on its own. Set in the center of the sprawling Olympic Park development, there is a lot of space around it and all of the entrances and exits can be controlled. With almost half of the Premier League teams located in London or within a 90-minute drive safe, two venues will likely be needed in England’s capital city.
Southampton – St Mary’s Stadium
Spread out from plenty of the northern teams, St Mary’s is maybe an outlier but it is in the center of the South Coast so would be idea for Bournemouth and Brighton an hour or so either side of it. If the PL want similar journey times for teams, clubs traveling from the Midlands and London would have comparable journey times. Located close to the city center but the roads around it can be controlled to create a sterile environment.
Leicester – King Power Stadium
See above. The King Power and St Mary’s are literally the same stadium but one has blue seats and the other red and they have all of the latest technology set up in both. Leicester’s is also just off a city center location but the environment can be controlled with just two entrances and exits to worry about. Located in the center of England so teams from the South and North can easily have similar journeys.
Birmingham – Villa Park
That is why Villa Park is a good option but it is located in an urban area. Birmingham is perfectly situated between the north west cities of Liverpool and Manchester (five PL teams are located around that region) and London (six teams) so it is an ideal location. However, both Villa Park and Wolverhampton Wanderers’ nearby Molineux Stadium are in heavily populated areas. That is an issue.
Manchester – Old Trafford
Not quite as well suited to the Etihad Stadium but Old Trafford is a huge complex with no roads running close to the stadium and massive parking lots on one side and pedestrian areas on the other three. It could be used.
Notes: Both Newcastle’s St James’ Park and Norwich’s Carrow Road homes are in central locations in their respective cities and are a long traveling distance away from other Premier League clubs, while Liverpool and Everton both have stadiums smack bang in the middle of busy residential neighborhoods.