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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Liverpool and Everton confident Merseyside Derby will take place at Goodison Park

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The Premier League clash between the local rivals was one of a number of fixtures suggested to take place at a neutral venue

Liverpool and Everton are confident that the upcoming Merseyside Derby in the Premier League will take place at Goodison Park, despite police recommending that it should be held at a neutral venue.

The clash between the north-west rivals was one of several Premier League fixtures it was suggested should be played away from the stated home ground, due to fears of fans congregating and contravening social distancing rules, with the game to take place behind closed doors to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Liverpool are six points away from securing a first top-flight league title in 30 years, and could win the championship if they beat Everton, should Manchester City lose to Arsenal a few days prior.

A statement from South Yorkshire Police last month said there is a desire for at least five Premier League games to be played away from the home team’s ground due to concerns of fans gathering at the stadiums.

Everton vs Liverpool was selected as a match to be played at a neutral venue, as well as the game in which Jurgen Klopp’s side could secure the league title.

However the Premier League said they wanted games played home and away “where possible”, and now both Liverpool Council’s Ground Safety Advisory Group (GSAG) and Merseyside Police have backed the game being played at Everton’s ground.

Liverpool said they welcomed the decision following discussions with Everton, the council and fan groups from both teams.

They said: “Following already positive discussions with key partners including Liverpool City Council, Merseyside Police, Spirit of Shankly, Everton Football Club and Blue Union we have committed to working together to restart the season safely with the overriding aim of ensuring these games are completed by prioritising public health so the return to football is a success for Merseyside.

“These discussions are very much part of our normal match day planning and arrangements. Further dialogue between all partners is scheduled this week and together will provide clear and regular updates for supporters throughout this process.”

Councillor Wendy Simon, Deputy Mayor of Liverpool and chair of GSAG, said: “We are satisfied that the considerable evidence and guidance provided will ensure that the outstanding fixtures for the 2019/20 Premier League season can be safely and securely played at both Goodison Park and Anfield.  

“A lot of factors have been taken into consideration by the GSAG, especially the safety of the players, match officials and staff in attendance at both stadia.

“We are confident the measures in place will allow the matches to be held behind closed doors without any detrimental impact to all concerned and recommend to the city council that the safety certificates for both grounds be amended to allow this to happen. 

“I’m sure fans of both teams will welcome this recommendation and, subject to ratification, we look forward to watching the first of these matches – the Merseyside Derby on 21 June – which will be broadcast live on free-to-air TV for the first time since the Premier League began.

“We would also advise that everyone, wherever they may be watching these fixtures, to strongly adhere to the guidance on social distancing around the current Covid-19 pandemic and for not only these matches but the wider relaxation measures anticipated for the city.”          

Merseyside Police assistant chief constable Rob Carden, said: “In relation to crime and disorder we have no objections to any of the Everton, or Liverpool, home fixtures being played at their respective grounds.

“The main issues of concern was always going to be public health. It is not the role of the police to make operational decisions on the basis of public health. We are guided by experts in public health and the government. We accept the decision of the GSAG in this respect and will work closely with our partners to play our part in delivering safe events. 

“We are still in unprecedented times due to the COVID-19 pandemic and there are strong concerns in Merseyside, and the wider North West, due to the fact that the R rate here is still higher than the rest of the country.

“For that reason, we would urge supporters to do the right thing – stay at home, enjoy the opportunity to watch every second of the game free of charge on your own TV , in your own living room and keep yourself, your family, friends and neighbours safe.” 

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