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Aston Villa chief exec likens Project Restart to Brexit, and explains why he's against playing at neutral venues

Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow has likened the Premier League’s Project Restart to Brexit and explained why he is against playing the league’s remaining fixtures at neutral venues.

Football remains suspended indefinitely amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, though talks are continuing over a safe return to the sport with hopes high that the season can be resumed in early June.

Various proposals are currently being considered for a behind-closed-doors return for the Premier League, including the possibility of playing remaining fixtures at select neutral venues in a bid to minimise risk.

However, several of the league’s struggling sides have expressed concerns over the proposals citing a lack of home advantage during the relegation run-in, with Villa chief exec Purslow admitting he is ‘against’ the idea.

“Neutral grounds is just one component in a whole package of measures that are going to have to be debated and discussed,” Purslow told talkSPORT.

“It’s a bit like the Brexit process; there is general agreement on what we want to achieve, which is try to find a way to put on football and complete the season, but how we do that is much more complicated.

“We are having to make quite significant changes; it’s like the Grand National which we are restarting at Ascot rather than Aintree and the horses aren’t the same and if jockeys are sick they change as well.

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“So we’ve got a radically different product that we are all trying to find a way to put back on, and neutral grounds, which was revealed on Friday as something we are going to have to look at carefully, is just one example.

“Personally, I am against it.

“We are a club that prides itself on our home form; I think two thirds of our wins this season have come at home. We’ve got six home games left to play so I think any Villa fan will agree that giving up that advantage is a massive decision for somebody running Aston Villa.

“And I certainly wouldn’t agree to that, unless the circumstances were right.”

It has been suggested that the Premier League strugglers want the prospect of relegation scrapped this season, and while Purslow said the prospect of removing relegation has not been discussed, he did say that the prospect of losing £200 million would be a financial ‘catastrophe’.

“That hasn’t been discussed,” he continued. “I read it over the weekend and seen that that idea has been floated.

“I can certainly understand why people would feel that at the bottom end of the table the financial equation is really rather different than at the top of the table.

“I’ve had the privilege of working for two of the big six, and the losses that those clubs are suffering run to tens of millions of pounds, and so ‘Restart’ is a project designed to enable us to recoup some of the losses we are suffering – because, of course, television is the primary driver of that income.

“That is what we all want to recapture; find a way to protect that income.

“At the bottom of the league it is a little different; none of us are playing in Europe, none of us are generating millions of pounds on a matchday – it is a much, much smaller revenue base – and, of course, the risk of relegation is a £200m catastrophe for any club that mathematically could still go down.

“So when you say to a club at the bottom, ‘look, we want you to agree to a bunch of rule changes that may make it more likely you get relegated’, they’re not thinking about TV money – they are thinking, ‘am I going to agree to something that results in me being relegated and losing £200m?’.

“So there are no rights and wrongs here; every club has to protect its own financial position, and the positions are wildly different from top to bottom in our league. Hence the need to find something that works for everybody.”

Government confirm ‘constructive meetings’ about Premier League return to ‘lift the spirits of the nation’

See also – Blow for PL strugglers as broadcasters keen on ‘jeopardy of a relegation battle’

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