April 30 – One of Britain’s most senior police officers has warned that football will be cancelled if fans attempt to congregate outside stadiums and contravene social distancing guidelines, if and when matches resume, and also suggests some games could be played at neutral venues.
The Premier League was suspended indefinitely seven weeks ago and the UK now has the world’s third highest death rate.
Despite this, talks are taking place over a potential return to action, albeit behind closed doors, while several clubs are now back in moderate training as of this week.
Police chiefs are concerned that supporters could be tempted to flout regulations should the season resume in mid-June which is one option being discussed.
Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts says consideration should be given to playing key games at neutral venues to minimise the impact on the emergency services.
“What we don’t want is to do things that breach the lockdown and all the hard work that people have put in through social isolation by then having fans congregate at stadiums, training grounds,” he said.
“What you could do if we start fixtures again is to be very clear that if fans don’t abide by the restrictions then the league can be curtailed. I’d be very keen to put it in the gift of the supporters themselves that, the more you abide by the restrictions, the easier it makes it to fulfil the season.”
Roberts said playing all the outstanding Premier League, English Football League and FA Cup matches in the 2019-20 season at their original venues “would present challenges, that’s an awful lot of people moving around the country, and certainly if they were all played at the originally planned stadiums then I think that does present some challenges.
“I think we all need to look at options about what games absolutely need to be played.”
“Let’s look at how they can be managed, potentially at their own stadiums but equally if we can see benefits of playing at a neutral, controlled venue, both from the health aspects of it but also minimising any disruption to the police, the ambulance service and all those other functions that are going to be stretched as we go back to normality and people start going about their normal business again.”
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