Police explain decisions behind asking for Liverpool to play at neutral venues

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Police have set out the Premier League matches they would like to be played at neutral venues, which would include any Liverpool game where the title could be won.

The matches which have been requested to take place at neutral grounds are Manchester City v Liverpool, Manchester City v Newcastle, Manchester United v Sheffield United, Newcastle v Liverpool and Everton v Liverpool.

The police statement adds that “the game in which Liverpool could secure the league title” should also be moved, but this may end up needing to be more than one match if the Reds did not clinch it at the first attempt.

Deputy chief constable Mark Roberts of South Yorkshire Police, the UK’s football policing lead, said in a statement issued to the PA news agency: “Our discussions with the Premier League throughout this process have been positive, with a shared focus on the priority of public health.

“As such we have reached a consensus that balances the needs of football, while also minimising the demand on policing.

“The majority of remaining matches will be played at home and away as scheduled, with a small number of fixtures taking place at neutral venues, which, contrary to some reports, have yet to be agreed.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 4, 2019: Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum gets away from Everton's Morgan Schneiderlin (L) and Michael Keane (R) during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC, the 234th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“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.

“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.”

Newcastle, in 13th, are the lowest-ranked side to be involved in a match at a neutral venue as things stand.

There had been complaints from some clubs towards the bottom of the table, including Brighton, about the impact of playing at neutral venues on sporting integrity.

Clubs will hold further discussions on whether to proceed with the season on this basis when they meet again on June 4.

The police statement did not mention any matches in the English Football League.

Championship clubs are back in training with a view to restarting next month, and an EFL spokesperson said: “It remains our intention to play all remaining league matches at clubs’ home grounds as long as they comply with the relevant Government guidance.

“We will only seek to move matches if they are not permitted by the relevant local authority, following any representations from the local police force.”

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