The Premier League will urge the UK government and emergency services to reconsider the insistence the 2019-20 top-flight season must resume at neutral venues, sources have told ESPN, after more than half of its 20 clubs voiced opposition to the plan.
All professional sport in the UK has been given the green light by the government to prepare for a return to competitive action from June 1, subject to the coronavirus infection rate continuing to decline.
The government’s decision has paved the way for the Premier League season to recommence from its planned date of June 8, but sources have told ESPN that a majority of its member clubs raised objections to the proposal for games to be played behind closed doors at neutral venues for the remainder of the season.
As reported by ESPN, the UK authorities had made it a condition of “Project Restart” that games are staged at neutral venues for safety reasons amid concerns supporters would defy social distancing regulations by travelling to stadiums while their team was in action.
A major concern centred on the prospect of thousands of Liverpool supporters massing outside the stadium where Jurgen Klopp’s team, who need just two wins from their nine remaining games, could clinch the club’s first league title since 1990.
Joe Anderson, the Mayor of Liverpool, claimed last month that hosting such a game at Anfield would be a “non-starter” and that it would be “farcical” if crowds of fans attempted to celebrate outside the stadium.
There has been widespread opposition to the neutral venue proposal, however, with senior figures from relegation-threatened clubs including Brighton and Aston Villa publicly voicing their concerns due to fears that surrendering home advantage in games could prove crucial in their battle to stay up.
But while some clubs cited the need for sporting integrity to be maintained by having the season played out on a home and away basis, sources have told ESPN that others highlighted the importance of honouring lucrative sponsorship contracts, such as those involving naming rights of stadiums.
The Premier League are expected to address their concerns with the government this week and sources have said there is confidence within the game that fixtures will be allowed to take place on a home and away basis, albeit with strict measures imposed outside the stadiums to prevent mass gatherings of supporters.
Meanwhile, the Premier League, EFL and English Football Association will be given a detailed explanation of the government’s roadmap towards a route to restarting competitive sport during a video conference on Tuesday.
Sources have told ESPN the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) will speak to all major sporting bodies in the United Kingdom in order to explain the detail of the government’s proposal for professional sport to resume from June 1.
DCMS has held regular meetings with the football authorities since the game was suspended in mid-March, but Tuesday’s is understood to be the most significant due to the prospect of clarity being given ahead of the anticipated return of the sport.