A huge hurdle in the Premier League 2019-20 season restarting appears to be on the way to being cleared as leagues officials, the police and UK government held positive talks over games being played at home stadiums.
Up until this point, Premier League clubs were against the plan to play the remaining 92 games of the season in neutral stadiums as part of the ‘Project Restart’ plan, as the UK government was concerned with social distancing rules.
The Daily Mail say that a meeting between the Premier League, police and government went well and as long as the individual clubs can help with stewarding outside empty stadiums while games are going on, it should get the green light.
Here’s more from the Mail’s report:
“It is understood that positive talks last night chaired by the Department of Culture, Media and Sports involving the police, the Sports Grounds Safety Authority and representatives from the Premier League, FA and EFL broke up with the government advising that the controversial issue of whether individual stadiums should be licensed to stage matches would a matter for local police authorities. We can disclose that a number of police forces have no issues with matches being played at their original venues, as long as a number of safety criteria can be met.”
A statement from the National Police Chiefs’ Council Football Policing Lead Mr Mark Roberts, who last week was opposed to games being played at home stadiums, confirmed there have been positive steps forward.
“Following a positive meeting between police, government and football last night, 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.”
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters revealed on Monday that he would speak with the government to ask if home and away games are possible rather than neutral venues. Speaking after a five-hour video conference call with all 20 Premier League clubs on Monday, Masters said that all clubs want to be able to play home and away games rather than at neutral venues as the government had previously requested.
“Everybody would prefer to play at home and away if at all possible, and it’s clear to see some clubs feel more strongly about that than others. We are in contact with the authorities and listening to that advice, while also representing club views in those discussions,” Masters said. “We are working flat out to create a responsible, safe, and deliverable model to complete the season. No decisions will be made until after we have talked to players and managers and those meetings are scheduled for later this week.”
With social distancing rules still in place in the UK, government and local police forces have been concerned about fans congregating outside stadiums if their teams are playing and celebrating victories. It is believed Premier League clubs argued that would still be the case outside neutral venues. Several clubs also argued that the sporting integrity of the competition would be called into question as teams still have an advantage from playing at home, even without fans, and some have more home games left on the schedule than others.
Talks are ongoing with the government this week about a restart, as well as players and managers who will air their concerns, as there has been no agreement about when teams are safe to return to training and a training protocol hasn’t been agreed.
That said, playing games at neutral stadiums has been the main sticking point and if there’s been progress on that front, a return to training on May 18 and games on June 12 has taken a big step forward.