‘Project Restart’, the Premier League’s plan for football to resume next month, was given renewed hope this week when the Government gave the green light for elite sports to return behind closed doors from the 1st of June.
There are however, a number of things that need to be agreed between clubs before the Premier League can set a date for its resumption.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to the ‘Project Restart’ has been the Premier League’s proposal to complete the season in neutral venues.
It was widely reported last week that only the bottom six clubs were against this idea as they didn’t want to give up home advantage in their fight to avoid relegation.
However, after Monday’s meeting with representatives from all 20 clubs, the Premier League’s Chief Executive Richard Masters confirmed all 20 clubs would prefer to use their own stadiums.
“Obviously it is the preference of all our clubs to play at home if at all possible,” Masters said in an official Premier League press release.
“It is an ongoing dialogue and we’ve been talking to the authorities about the conditions in which we could get the Premier League back up and running”, Masters added.
Manchester United fan Bobby Donaldson says he can understand why club’s don’t want to give up home advantage.
“I can wholeheartedly understand why the clubs would be opposed to the idea of playing at a neutral venue”, Bobby explained.
“There is a lot at stake for many clubs whether that be those chasing European spots or fighting for survival,”.
“Although fans will not be allowed in the stadium I still feel playing at the teams home ground has many benefits”, Bobby added.
The Premier League are now set to go back to the Government and explore the possibility of finishing the season without the need for neutral venues, pointing to the example of the Bundesliga in Germany, where football resumes behind closed doors this weekend without the need for neutral stadiums.
If the Premier League season had to be finished in neutral venues, the clubs near the bottom of the table had suggested they would only support this if relegation was removed for this season.
However, earlier in the week, FA Chairman Greg Clarke told clubs that the FA would veto any attempt to remove relegation and that if clubs couldn’t finish their remaining fixtures, the league had to be decided on sporting merit.
This has removed any possibility of the 2019/20 season being declared null and void and means if games do not get going again the final league table could be decided on a points-per-game basis.
Watford fan Alex Baalham is against this system as there is still so much to play for.
“There are still 27 points to play for which could potentially double a team’s points tally”, Alex explained.
“Look at Leicester City in 2015, they had only won four Premier League games going into April but took 22 points from their remaining games and stayed up”.
Alex continued, “I don’t think there is any sporting integrity in relegating a team on a points-per-game basis”.
We are just people too 🤷🏼♂️ https://t.co/XMKH9FYhsJ
— Todd Cantwell (@ToddCantwell_10) May 10, 2020
Another huge concern with the Premier League returning is the safety of the players and after the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport issued safety guidelines on Wednesday as to how elite sports training can resume, a meeting was held to discuss how Premier League players can safely return to training.
This meeting was attended virtually by the managers and captains of all 20 Premier League clubs, as well as the Premier League’s Medical Officer Mark Gillett and the Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam.
In the meeting, Watford captain Troy Deeney and West Ham captain Mark Noble are said to have been vocal in their concerns over returning to player safety.
Their comments come after numerous Premier League player’s have expressed concerns over theirs and their family’s safety in recent weeks, with Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero even claiming players are scared for football to return.
To hear how Liverpool fan Paisley Langton’s would feel if a player refused to play for her club when the Premier League season does return.
Bobby Donaldson, the Manchester United fan quoted above, is adamant no player should be forced to play.
“No player should be rushed and forced into playing,” Bobby said.
“They are human after all”.
“In my opinion if there is any real risk of exposure to these players then the league shouldn’t be restarted at all”, Bobby ended.
The Premier League insists its priority will always be the safety of players, coaches and managers, staff, supporters, and the wider community.