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Sunday, October 25, 2020

Premier League chief reveals Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham oppose neutral venues plan

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Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has revealed that every club in the division is opposed to completing the season in neutral venues.

It has been widely reported that 8-10 neutral venues would be used to see the remaining 92 matches played behind closed doors with no side playing in their home stadiums for the remainder of the season.

A number of clubs have already been vocal with their objections to the idea, with relegation-threatened sides speaking up, but the number has risen in the past week – and now it’s an idea that isn’t supported by any club.

“Just to reiterate that, I think everybody would prefer to play home and away if at all possible. And I think it’s clear to see that some clubs feel more strongly about that than others,” he told the Mirror.

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“It is an ongoing dialogue and obviously we’ve been talking to – since Covid-19 became an issue – we’ve been talking to the authorities about the conditions in which we could get the Premier League back up and running and taking all that advice on board.

“But it is an ongoing dialogue. There is not much I can say about that, other than we are in contact with the authorities and listening to that advice while also representing club views in those discussions.”

He also stated the Premier League was in regular discussions with football authorities, stressed the importance of player safety and insisted the objective amongst the clubs is to complete the season.

“Speaking today is an opportunity to share our current position on what is undoubtedly a hugely challenging time for everybody. In today’s meeting it was reiterated that Premier League clubs absolutely puts football into context.

“So many lives have been lost and so many others deeply affected. The Premier League, our clubs and our players have provided vital support to their communities and the NHS and will continue to do so after matches recommence.

“The Government last night signalled its road map for easing lockdown and during the meeting today we heard news about further announcements about a return to live sport. We welcome these first steps and we’re ready to play our part.

“We’re working flat out with club and stakeholders – that’s Government, our broadcast partners, the FA, the EFL, the PFA, the LMA – to create a responsible, safe and deliverable model to complete the season. The first tentative step is to return to training on a socially-distanced basis, and we are making some progress on that.

“We have protocols created and reviewed, we have a testing company appointed, but the important consultation with players and managers is the next step, nothing has been agreed and nothing will be agreed until we have spoken to both the managers and the players.

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Coronavirus and football

“Like all industries we must plan for getting football back up and running, so much depends upon it. Of course, safety comes first and we must listen to the Government, the authorities and the medical experts and continue to follow their advice. That is exactly what we’re doing – we’re getting ourselves into the best position to resume the season but only when the conditions are right.

“Our priority will always be the health and safety of players, coaches, managers, staff, supporters and the wider community. Perhaps the only thing that has changed, other than Covid, since we last talked is Gary Hoffman’s appointment.

“I’m really looking forward to working with him. He has a tough act to follow in Claudia Arney who I have worked with so closely over the last 18 months, I know she has the respect of everyone within the Premier League and all the players, and so we look forward to that new team emerging.

“In terms of what happened at today’s meeting, wide-ranging discussions today, lots of topics covered, strong desire to discuss everything in the round and to discuss a collective way forward.

Coronavirus is having an impact across sport in Europe, with football league schedules suspended in several countries, including in England, Spain and Italy. But what happens next?

  – The Champions League and Europa League have been suspended, and UEFA have announced plans for what could happen next.

  – The Premier League clubs are set for more crunch talks following Boris Johnson’s address to the nation.

  – Decisions have been made regarding other leagues across Europe, including in France, Holland and Germany.

  – Decisions have been made regarding the National League and other non-league football.

  – We asked the fans what they want to see happen, following the suspension of football in the Premier League. Here’s what they said.

“Lots of it is obviously confidential but still the really strong collective will to complete the season remains, lots of discussions about the importance of players and managers and their vital role in moving forward.

“We discussed the training protocols, they’re under medical advice and we’re working closely with Government still. No decisions will be made until after we have talked to players and managers and those meetings are scheduled for later this week.

“We have appointed a testing company. We talked about neutral venues – obviously it is the preference of all our clubs to play at home if at all possible, but all must be cognisant of what authorities are telling us and we will continue with that conversation.

“We won’t be playing until the middle of June, it doesn’t seem quite right to be talking about playing before we’ve actually taken the decision to return to the first stage of training, but obviously in terms of how those matches will take place, there’s a lot of water to pass under the bridge and we will continue to assess the circumstances then.”

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