Premier League clubs have been told the remaining matches of the 2019-20 season must be played at neutral venues in the latest ‘Project Restart’ meeting.
The clubs were presented with the league’s ‘Project Restart’ plans at a meeting on Friday, and while a statement was issued reconfirming the clubs’ commitment to finishing the season, it is understood there is no possibility that it can now finish on a home-and-away basis for safety reasons.
That has caused an apparent rift between the Big Six and the rest, who ‘have a number of reservations’ about the plans.
The Daily Mail says ‘up to 10 clubs are threatening’ to vote against the season returning in a ballot that requires at least 14 clubs to be in favour of restarting the campaign.
Representatives from Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham ‘warned that voting to curtail the season’ could put 2020/21 in jeopardy too, as they wait for a Covid-19 vaccine could well last for 18 months or longer.
‘The clubs keenest to resume also argued that many of the legitimate health concerns expressed by their rivals, such as the danger of the virus being passed between players and safety concerns about mass crowds gathering outside closed stadiums are still likely to apply later in the year,’ adds Matt Hughes. Well, that’s alright then.
The other ‘rebel’ clubs, ‘who are not all in danger of relegation’, would rather wait for ‘government support to return to training’, while fearing that using neutral venues ‘will damage the integrity of the competition’.
They also doubt whether they can convince all players to return when leagues across Europe are being cancelled due to the ongoing situation.
It is understood the Premier League will look at using between eight and 10 stadiums, with venues likely to be chosen for ease of ensuring social distancing – which would appear to favour more out-of-town sites.
It is also understood the EFL is still intent on playing the remainder of its campaigns behind closed doors at the regular venues, but the governing body is aware current plans may need to change.
Clubs are expected to vote on the key principles of ‘Project Restart’ some time after May 7, when the Government must review the current UK lockdown.