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Premier League season could be cancelled if clubs don’t back neutral venues, says managers’ union


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Premier League season could be cancelled if clubs don’t back neutral venues, says managers’ union

Liverpool’s Anfield ground may not witness Premier League action again this seasonThe 2019-20 Premier League season could be cancelled if clubs do not agree to play in neutral venues, says League Managers Association chief executive Richard Bevan.A vote is set to take place on Monday on proposals for a return to football.The Premier League has…

Premier League season could be cancelled if clubs don’t back neutral venues, says managers’ union

Liverpool's Anfield ground

Liverpool’s Anfield ground may not witness Premier League action again this season

The 2019-20 Premier League season could be cancelled if clubs do not agree to play in neutral venues, says League Managers Association chief executive Richard Bevan.

A vote is set to take place on Monday on proposals for a return to football.

The Premier League has been suspended since 13 March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bevan says “time isn’t on our side and training needs to be in place very soon” for a return by 12 June.

All 20 clubs are committed to playing the 92 remaining fixtures of the 2019-20 season if and when it is safe to do so.

However, Brighton have said they are “not in favour” of using neutral venues because it may affect the “integrity” of the league.

The neutral stadium proposal needs 14 out of the 20 clubs to vote in favour for it to be adopted.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to update the UK’s position on lockdown and the plan for easing measures on Sunday.

Asked if a vote against neutral venues would lead to the season’s cancellation, Bevan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Yes, I think that probably is correct.”

He added: “The government, if they haven’t already, will be making it clear that home matches with densely populated stadia, really puts into question whether social distancing rules can be adhered to.”

What are the plans for a return?

The Premier League’s plans – dubbed Project Restart – involve a return to action in June in order to complete the season at the end of July to fit in with Uefa’s European competition plans.

This would require full training to begin by 18 May.

The league would also need up to 40,000 tests for players and staff if plans to play the outstanding games behind closed doors are pursued.

On Friday, after their most recent meeting by video conference, Premier League clubs reiterated a commitment to resuming the season “when safe and appropriate to do so”.

Who has concerns about a restart?

A number of Premier League club doctors have raised a range of concerns with league bosses over plans to resume the season.

One issue that the senior medics have sought assurances over includes their own liability and insurance cover if players contract the virus.

The 20 club doctors have been holding their own discussions about Project Restart with a view to feeding their thoughts over medical protocols, testing and player welfare.

“The medical and operational protocols are going to be presented to the managers on calls, and indeed the players,” Bevan added.

“Hopefully, there will be solutions that create this safe environment.

“Football must not occupy any NHS resources, it must not impinge on the capacity of the health and emergency services. But it covers testing, tracking, PPE available, clear guidelines on social distancing, and obviously a safe environment to train and play.

“There will be guidance on cardiology, mental and emotional well-being. And I think the message really is that health is a guiding principle to any decision-making.”

What about safety concerns among players?

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero has spoken out to say players are “scared” about returning to action amid the coronavirus outbreak.

On returning to training, players will be tested for the virus twice a week and would be screened for symptoms every day.

There will also be extra precautions for players at training, including wearing protective equipment and not showering or eating on premises.

Bevan says no players would be forced into playing when it is not safe to do so.

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“I think as long as we have maximum information and good protocol documents, players will make their own decisions and same for managers. And they’ll be looking at best practice,” he added.

“If we do get that information clearly and well-presented and governments are clear as well, there’ll be some good decision-making – from a manager perspective. I don’t think that would be coercing players at all.”

More complication for the Premier League – analysis

Simon Stone, BBC Sport

The reluctance of some clubs to play at neutral grounds presents the Premier League with a headache.

In pure numbers terms, 14 of the 20 need to vote in favour of a proposal for it to be carried.

However, all the way through the Covid-19 outbreak, the Premier League has tried to remain united – as it still is in an overall desire to complete the season.

Given the six clubs at the bottom of the table are the ones most resistant to the neutral games idea, if the rest vote in favour, it will happen.

But that would open up grievances that would not easily be settled – and given three of these clubs, Aston Villa, Brighton and West Ham, play at grounds that fulfil the criteria around accessibility the Premier League is looking for in the eight to 10 stadiums that it uses, it would mean some very awkward conversations having to take place.

As has happened so often over the past couple of months, what seems a straightforward situation becomes complicated very quickly.

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