June 1 – At least five Premier League matches have been earmarked by police to be played at neutral venues when English top-flight football resumes in mid-June, with the likelihood that Liverpool will not be able to win the title on home soil.
Police originally wanted neutral venues for all 92 remaining games to avoid crowd congestion outside grounds even though all fixtures will be behind closed doors.
The plan was opposed by some clubs, notably those trying to avoid relegation, but police insist certain matches are too high-risk to be allowed to go ahead at home grounds.
One of them is the Merseyside derby between Everton and Liverpool on the first full weekend of games which is also the first possible opportunity for Liverpool, who have a 25-point lead, to seal the title if second-placed Manchester City lose to Arsenal when the season gets under way in midweek on June 17.
Even if their 30-year wait for the title doesn’t end that day, police want Liverpool’s next game, against Crystal Palace, to be played away from Anfield while their third game back, at Manchester City, is likely to be staged away from the Etihad Stadium.
None of the clubs set to be involved in matches at neutral venues have made any comment so far with the subject set to be discussed again on June 4.
The Premier League released a statement saying its ambition was to complete the season on a home-and-away basis “where possible. We are working with our clubs to ensure risks are assessed and minimised.”
Even if there is no vaccine for COVID-19, it has been revealed fans could return to stadiums at the start of next season, which is due to begin in September instead of August.
“There is optimism at the Premier League and at clubs that we will see fans back in the stadiums next season,” Premier League chief executive Richard Masters told Sky, “and it may happen on a phased basis.”
Meanwhile the tier-2 Championship season is set to resume on June 20, more than three months after it too was suspended.
The English Football League said the date was “provisional” and “subject to the strict proviso that all safety requirements and government guidance is met”.
There are 108 matches remaining, plus the play-off semi-finals and final. No Championship fixtures have been played since March 8.
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