British police call for perspective on neutral venues plan


FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football – Premier League – Southampton v Aston Villa – St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton, Britain – February 22, 2020 General view of match balls on the pitch before the match Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs

(Reuters) – Premier League clubs opposed to the idea of playing their remaining matches at neutral venues once the competition restarts must realise people’s lives are at stake and football concerns should take a back seat, British police have said.

Mark Roberts, the national lead for football policing, told Sky he was concerned about some of the comments he had heard regarding the conditions for restarting the league, which was suspended in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Discussions are continuing about resuming games after clubs were told only neutral venues approved from a health and safety point of view will be allowed.

Brighton & Hove Albion chief executive Paul Barber said his team were opposed to surrendering home advantage and Christian Purslow, his counterpart at Aston Villa, said relegation would be a 200 million pounds catastrophe.

“The things that are starting to concern me a little as we get closer to a potential restart are comments we’re hearing on the margins by people involved in football,” Deputy Chief Constable Roberts said.

“… Comments such as ‘we might get relegated’, ‘we don’t want to play at neutral venues,’ ‘when we played them away there were fans in the stadium’, ‘we play at home without fans that’s a disadvantage’, ‘we want to get the trophy’.

“I get this in a football context that these are all a big deal. But in the context where 30,000 people have died (in the UK) and the total is still going up, then it’s not such a big deal.

“We want to work with football… get the season back going for the commercial reasons, for the morale reasons … but we have to remind ourselves that cannot be at the risk of putting a single further life in jeopardy,” Roberts said.

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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