The decision to play out the remainder of the Premier League season at eight to 10 neutral venues could spark a “civil war” between the ‘big six’ and ‘smaller’ clubs.
It was announced on Friday evening, following the latest meeting between the 20 clubs, that the intention remains to fulfil the remaining fixtures for 2019/20.
This came after Ligue 1’s controversial decision to end the current campaign early and crown Paris Saint-Germain champions on a points-per-game basis, with Marseille and Rennes qualifying for the Champions League and Amiens and Toulouse relegated.
Previously, it has been claimed that this would be the Premier League‘s favoured approach if the season was deemed unsalvageable, but there is no suggestion that this will be the case.
Instead the plan is to finish the remaining fixtures at neutral venues, with the Press Association reporting that “it is understood there is no possibility that it can now finish on a home-and-away basis for safety reasons.”
John Cross writes that the latest plea to fulfil the 2019/20 calendar was led by the top six—though whether that includes positional incumbents Leicester and Wolves or the rest of the traditional ‘big six’ in Tottenham and Arsenal is unclear.
He adds that “there is a feeling among a raft of clubs that the top clubs are in serious danger of destroying football’s integrity of trying to finish the season during a global pandemic.”
The prospect of playing at neutral venues, and therefore negating home advantage, is said to be the key sticking point for those battling relegation in particular.
Quite why is not fully explained, as the very nature of playing in neutral venues means that every side will relinquish this ‘advantage’, though of course those fighting for survival could argue the importance of such small margins.
Any decision requires a majority vote of 14 to six, but the previously scheduled meeting on Thursday, May 7 has now been postponed due to the government’s review of the current lockdown measures on the same day.
Cross writes that “it is likely that a vote could be staged next Friday” in an immediate response to an expected relaxation of the lockdown, which could pave the way for clubs to return to training.
Neutral venues, with players effectively quarantined in nearby hotels for a month, is arguably the best possible means of finishing the season in a timely manner.
But whether this opposition will complicate matters, forcing another proposal, remains to be seen—with next Friday a possible ‘D-Day’ for the Premier League.