LONDON: Liverpool are unlikely to win the Premier League at Anfield after British Police included the leaders’ key games among six it wants to be played at neutral venues in a bid to prevent fans from gathering outside when the competition resumes.
Police originally wanted neutral venues for all 92 remaining games but the plan was opposed by the clubs particularly those trying to avoid relegation.
The league plans to resume on June 17 after a 100-day shutdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic, pending final approval from government, which is trying to prevent a second spike in cases.
Police don’t object to the games on that Wednesday night being played at Manchester City and Aston Villa.
But police want the derby between Everton and Liverpool to be played away from Merseyside a few days later. The game was originally scheduled at Goodison Park. Liverpool, who leads by 25 points with nine games remaining, could clinch the title by beating Everton if second-placed City lose to Arsenal.
If the 30-year title drought doesn’t end that day, police want Liverpool’s next game, against Crystal Palace, to be played away from Anfield.
Greater Manchester Police have already determined Liverpool’s third game back against Manchester City should be staged away from the Etihad Stadium.
Liverpool’s fourth game back is against Aston Villa, currently scheduled at Anfield.
The same Manchester force wants City’s game against Newcastle United and Manchester United’s home game against Sheffield United played outside of the northwest location.
Police in Newcastle also don’t want the home game against Liverpool to be played at St. James’ Park on the final day of the season, which could be July 26.
Mark Roberts, the head of football policing in England, said the plans will remain under review but are based on public health demands.
“We have reached a consensus that balances the needs of football, while also minimising the demand on policing,” said Roberts, the football policing lead at the National Police Chief’s Council. “The views and agreement of forces which host Premier League clubs have been sought and where there were concerns, the Premier League has been supportive in providing flexibility in arranging alternative venues where requested.”
One obvious neutral venue is Wembley Stadium in north London which is not the home of any club side.
“This plan will be kept continually under review to ensure public health and safety and a key part of this is for supporters to continue to respect the social distancing guidelines, and not to attend or gather outside the stadiums,” Roberts said.
There had been complaints from some clubs towards the bottom of the table, including Brighton & Hove Albion, about the impact of playing at neutral venues on sporting integrity.
Individual police forces were asked which games concerned them and clubs will hold further discussions on whether to proceed with the season on this basis when they meet again on June 4.
Other games that could be moved reportedly include Tottenham Hotspur v West Ham United, West Ham United v Chelsea, Crystal Palace v Chelsea, Liverpool v Burnley, Tottenham v Arsenal, Liverpool v Chelsea and Crystal Palace v Tottenham.
Only 200 of the 380 Premier League games each season are contracted to be broadcast live in Britain, but all remaining fixtures will be aired live because fans will not be allowed in stadiums.
FA CUP FINAL SET FOR AUGUST 1
The reshaped English season is set to end with the FA Cup final on August 1 after the English Football Association announced provisional dates to finish the competition on Friday.
The FA Cup was halted before the quarter-finals because of the pandemic, but tournament organisers hope to complete it alongside the Premier League.
The four matches in the last eight will be played over the weekend of June 27 and 28, with no decision reached yet on whether these will be played on a home-and-away basis as normal or at neutral venues.
Leicester City take on Chelsea, Newcastle United face holders Manchester City, Sheffield United play Arsenal and Norwich City meet Manchester United.
The semi-finals will be played weekend of July 18-19, with the intention being for those matches and the final to be played at Wembley as usual.
All the ties will be behind closed doors.
The FA said that the dates for the games were“provisional” and dependent on all safety elements being in place for the games.
We are pleased to agree the provisional restart date for the 2019/20 Emirates FA Cup,” said FA Chief Executive Mark Bullingham. The competition has been an integral part of the English football calendar for nearly 150 years and wed like to thank the Premier League executive and clubs for their support in scheduling the remaining matches during this unprecedented time.”
Bullingham emphasised the provisional nature of the proposed dates, adding that“the health and wellbeing of players, staff and supporters remains our priority”.
Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2020