Premier League are going round in circles as decision deadline looms

SAMI MOKBEL: The Premier League is reeling after fruitless restart talks… Club execs are going round in circles amid accusations of sabotage and greed and there’s LITTLE prospect of a quick return

  • Monday’s Premier League meeting only agreed the extension of player contracts
  • A vote on the season’s timetable moving forward was delayed until next week
  • The meeting saw more clubs voice their opposition at the use of neutral venues 
  • Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal joined the bottom six in expressing opposition 

Another meeting, another set of unanswered questions. It seems we’re going round in circles at the moment.

The only definitive to emerge out of Monday’s Premier League meeting was to agree to extend playing contracts that conclude at the end of next month. 

But the biggest question of all remains shrouded in complexity. Will Project Restart get off the ground? The answer is: we don’t know.

The timetable for the restart of the Premier League is still up in the air after Monday’s meeting

The vote has been delayed amid unrest at neutral venues, led by Brighton CEO Paul Barber

The vote, which was originally due to take place at Monday’s Premier League meeting, has been postponed until next week.

The issue of playing the remaining 92 games at neutral venues remains the most divisive factor between clubs.

Some are happy to complete the season away from home but a growing number of clubs – at least two thirds – have now spoken up in opposition against the plan.

For the dissenters, the theory is that playing at neutral venues severely damages the reputation of the competition.

Of course, that is a valid argument. The Bundesliga, for example, are aiming to complete their season as normal at each venue.

So, too, are the Championship. Indeed, the plan to complete the Premier League season at neutral venues has confused many in the EFL, who simply can’t comprehend why such a plan has been hatched when they, albeit behind closed doors, are proposing to finish the season as normal.

The prospect of fans congregating outside stadiums remains a key factor behind the neutral venues plan. So, does that mean we can’t trust our supporters to be responsible? That’s a dangerous view to take.

Liverpool fans are known to turn out in huge numbers to support their club on match days

Equally, those in favour of playing at neutral venues will point to the financial implications if no more games are played.

Clubs have been warned they face receiving virtually no income from August 1. Clubs will have no option but to make redundancies in that scenario.

There is a frustrations among clubs that are happy to play at neutral venues towards those who are trying to sabotage the proposals.

‘They are being short-sighted,’ said one Premier League official.

Brighton, though opposed to neutral venues, is among grounds listed as potential hubs 

Premier League execs, such as Man Utd’s Ed Woodward, can’t currently agree on the restart

‘They are trying to stay in the Premier League by hook or by crook. That’s fine – but what sort of Premier League will they be in if we don’t get games up and running?’

The arguments for and against are compelling in equal measure. As it stands, the majority of clubs want the Premier League, to at the very least, investigate the prospect of seeing out the season at their own stadiums.

Whether or not the government or police are willing to give clubs the green light to do so remains to be seen.

The fact Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts – the man in charge of football policing in England – told clubs against the notion of neutral venues to ‘get a grip’ last week suggests not.

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts told those against notion of neutral venues to ‘get a grip’

Aston Villa CEO Christian Purslow is another voice against neutral venues to finish the season

In that scenario, effectively meaning it’s either neutral venues or nothing at all, clubs are expected to vote for the former.

Not completing the season could have disastrous consequences for clubs after the FA chairman Greg Clarke insisted in Monday’s meeting that the campaign must finish on ‘sporting merit’

If games don’t recommence, that will likely be in the form of a points per game system, effectively consigning clubs to relegation without another ball being kicked.

You would imagine resuming the season is the more beneficial option in that scenario. There was optimism last week that the Premier League would secure the 14 votes necessary to get Project Restart in its current guise approved.

But there appeared to be a shift in opinion at Monday’s meeting; clubs like Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal joining the bottom six in expressing opposition to the plan to play at neutral venues. 

This is a significant shift in opinion, which led the Premier League to pledge to discuss the matter again with the Government.

Several clubs also spoke of their fears over losing significant revenue if they are unable to play at their own ground because of commercial deals linked to their stadiums.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters is looking to restart the season next month

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters also confirmed that the possibility of curtailing the season had been discussed for the first time on Monday and that relegation would be imposed even in that instance.

All that means, it is looking increasingly likely that clubs are prepared to vote to play the remaining 92 matches.

The details of how top-flight football can return – however – is still to be concluded. Next Monday is D-day. But how many times have we said that recently?


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