The Premier League have issued an update on the plan to use a neutral stadium for certain games when they restart the 2019-20 season from June 17.
Police in the UK are concerned about fans congregating outside home stadiums for certain high-profile matches and Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has said talks are ongoing with the authorities about which games may have to be played at neutral stadiums.
Speaking to our partners in the UK, Sky Sports, Masters hopes to have more clarity on the situation in the next 7-10 days.
“Obviously it is our preference to play the games as they were originally planned, at home and away,” Masters said. “We are in discussions with the authorities, there are some concerns and we are working through that. I think that in the next 7-10 days we will have a clearer picture as to whether any of our fixtures are going to have to be played in neutral venues. We hope the number is going to be low.”
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A further statement from the Premier League confirmed that they are “working with our clubs to ensure risks are assessed and minimised, while cooperating with the police at a local and national level” and said talks with police forces “have been positive and are continuing” while they are “prepared for all outcomes and have a neutral-venue contingency.”
Masters didn’t want to reveal the identity of games which could be moved to neutral stadiums but multiple reports claim that most of Liverpool’s games, home and away, could be played at neutral stadiums due to fears over fans congregating ahead of a possible title-winning situation.
The Premier League chief executive added that Liverpool’s games at Anfield are part of the discussion but said no decision has been made on any neutral stadium games so far: “Ultimately we want the season to be played out on the pitch and we are discussing a number of mitigating factors as part of the whole model and try and keep it as fair as it possibly can be. That is what we are trying to deal with.”
Masters has handled this extremely tough situation with poise throughout negotiations with the clubs, players and government and the Premier League should be applauded for taking their time to work through all of this, while still remaining as close as possible to their mid-June deadline to restart.
Via the BBC, Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts has revealed that six games could be moved due to concerns over crowds congregating but said nothing has been confirmed.
“The majority of remaining matches will be played, at home and away as scheduled, with a small number of fixtures taking place at neutral venues, which, contrary to some reports, have yet to be agreed,” Roberts said. “The views and agreement of forces which host Premier League clubs have been sought and where there were concerns, the Premier League has been supportive in providing flexibility in arranging alternative venues where requested. This plan will be kept continually under review to ensure public health and safety and a key part of this is for supporters to continue to respect the social distancing guidelines, and not to attend or gather outside the stadiums.”
Simply put, there are still quite a few things to work out between now and June 17 when the Premier League is set to restart and if a few games have to be played at neutral stadiums to ensure the safety of players, staff and the general public, then that is surely a very small part of this mammoth undertaking to ensure the 2019-20 season is finished.