May 1 – A warning by the mayor of Liverpool that resuming the Premier League, even behind closed doors, would be a “non-starter” because fans would still turn up has prompted an immediate response by the club who are desperate to be crowned champions for the first time in the Premier League era.
Joe Anderson told the BBC he fears a “farcical” situation with fans congregating outside Anfield – even if runaway leaders Liverpool clinch the title at a neutral venue.
Liverpool, chasing their first title for 30 years, lead the table by 25 points with nine games remaining, with the league hoping to restart on 8 June.
The national lead for football policing said earlier this week that playing all remaining fixtures at their original venues would “present challenges” to the emergency services and Anderson agrees.
“Even if it was behind closed doors, there’d be many thousands of people who would turn up outside Anfield,” he cautioned.
“There’s not many people who would respect what we were saying and stay away from the ground, a lot of people would come to celebrate so I think it’s a non-starter.”
Asked about whether playing at a neutral venue would help, he said: “Even then, I guess that a lot of people would turn up outside Anfield to celebrate and I understand the police’s concerns around that, so there’s a real difficulty here for us. I think it would be really difficult for the police to keep people apart and maintain social distancing if they were going to celebrate outside Anfield. It would be farcical.
“It’s difficult for us to try to stop people gathering in parks when the weather has been good, especially young people. And I fear people would just ignore it.
“The police are right to be concerned about that as we are here in the city, and public health officials are also concerned about that, so we’d ask the Premier League and government to take into account all of these concerns that we have.”
“I think the best thing to do is to actually end the season. It isn’t just about Liverpool – they’ve clearly won the league – they deserve it, they should be crowned league champions.
“The bottom line is, though, this is about health and safety and people’s lives and I think football should have to come second in regards to making a choice here.”
In a statement, Liverpool countered: “As well as a lack of evidence to support such claims, we would also point to recent discussions with mayor Anderson relating to the possibility of any behind-closed-doors football, which concluded that it is important that key stakeholders across the city continue to engage and work collaboratively.
“In recent weeks, we have engaged with supporters’ groups who have informed us of their determination to respect social distancing measures and, in the event of a resumption of football being announced, we would continue to work with them and other key stakeholders in keeping with our collective desire to achieve this crucial objective.
“As part of our ongoing operations, we are in regular contact with the mayor and his office and we hope these conversations can continue.”
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