PREMIERSHIP MATCHES TO HOLD ON NEUTRAL GROUNDS

Premier League clubs have been told they cannot use their own stadiums for any games this season, with only “approved neutral venues” allowed to host remaining fixtures in a campaign currently on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The league, which has been suspended since March 13, remains in limbo, until any government decision on Thursday on possible changes to lockdown restrictions.

But, last Friday, all 20 clubs held a conference call in which they looked at plans for a gradual resumption of training later this month followed by a possible return to competitive action on June 8.

The clubs were informed that matches could be played only at neutral venues which have been approved from a health and safety point of view, a source told Reuters.

Teams would also not play in their own stadium, to ensure a degree of fairness in the unprecedented circumstances.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised to set out a “menu of options” on how restrictions could be eased, and the clubs plan to meet again as soon as possible after any government announcement on the lockdown.

English cricket’s governing body, the ECB, has been tasked with leading the planning for all sports and is looking at ways to play sport behind closed doors in “bio-secure” venues.

As reported by the BBC, a major factor in the decision to use neutral venues is “trying to reduce any chance of fans congregating”.

The selected grounds – eight to 10 of them are expected to be Premier League stadiums – will be based largely on a rating from the police and the Sports Grounds Safety Authority.

They will also consider the venues’ suitability for respecting safe distancing inside the stadium, ability to keep people away from outside the ground and the local infection numbers.

It was also reported in the British media that there are eight strong candidates for the venues.

They are:

  • Brighton’s Amex
  •  Southampton’s St Mary’s on the south coast.
  • West Ham’s London Stadium
  •  Arsenal’s Emirates home in the capital.
  • Leicester’s King Power
  •  Aston Villa’s ground, Villa Park, in the Midlands.
  • Old Trafford
  •  the Etihad in Manchester, providing a north-west base. 

Reuters