premier league coronavirus

Project Restart hits another stumbling block with 'up to eight clubs' now against neutral venues

The Premier League’s plan to get the season back up and running could be set to hit another stumbling block, with reports suggesting a growing number of clubs are against the prospect of playing at neutral venues.

Ever since football ground to a halt almost two months ago, there has been plenty of discussions in both public and in private as to how the season can be completed, if it can be completed at all.

The Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’ plan is currently looking at getting the action underway in June, with culture secretary Olivier Dowden admitting last week that football’s return would be “good for the nation”.

However, while the Premier League’s last statement insisted that the clubs “reconfirmed their commitment to finishing the 2019/20 season,” the last week or so has been littered with reports and comments about the growing concerns of playing the remaining 92 fixtures at neutral venues.

These concerns mainly stem from the Premier League’s bottom six sides, who claim that the lack of home advantage – even in spite of the almost certain prospect of playing in front of empty stadia – will negatively impact the sporting integrity of the division.

It is claimed that teams at the foot of the table are keen to see the threat of relegation removed in order to agree to play out the season at neutral grounds, Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow claiming this week that the threat of the drop represented a £200 million risk.

However, The Telegraph today report that “the bottom six have been joined by two others, both significantly higher in the table” – numbers which could prove crucial ahead of a potential vote, with a 14-6 majority being required in all voting.

Top-flight sides are due to meet via video call on Monday to discuss the latest proposals, though the prospect of scrapping relegation is not on the agenda.

However, the situation has been further muddied by a third player testing positive for the virus at Brighton – one of the clubs who have been most vocal and public in their opposition to the neutral venue plan –  a plan which has so far been insisted upon by the Government.

The report adds that clubs will be shown a presentation by broadcasters about the plan to show games on free-to-air platforms, such as YouTube, while the organisers are also set to layout “what the alternatives are” if the remaining fixtures cannot be played, with the FA “making it clear they expect three clubs to go down”.

One thing that is looks increasingly likely in this time of unprecedented uncertainty is that any return to football on these shores will be at the end of bumpy, uncomfortable and potentially long road.

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