Premier League return: Neutral venues dilemma as government seeks national ‘lift’

Premier League return: Neutral venues dilemma as government seeks national 'lift' 1 IMG 20200505 235006

According to Dominic Raab the return of Premier League football would “lift the spirits of the nation”..

Speaking at the government’s daily COVID-19 briefing, Dominic Raab said ministers were looking at sports being played behind closed doors in the second phase of its coronavirus response.

Asked about football’s top flight coming back in mid-June, the current timeframe the footballing authorities are working towards, Mr Raab said: “I think it would lift the spirits of the nation.

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Premier league return
The return of the Premier League will be a ‘lift’ to the nation, says Raab

“I think people would like to see us get back, not just to work and… to a stage where children can safely return to school, but also enjoy some of those pastimes, sporting in particular.

“I know that the government has had constructive meetings with sports bodies to plan for athletes to resume training when it’s safe to do so.”

Talks over the use of neutral venues to fulfil this season’s Premier League fixtures have taken place but St George’s Park will not be one of the locations.

Concerns raised by both police chiefs and Safety Advisory Groups (SAG), notably over crowds gathering and social distancing within stadia, mean the campaign cannot be finished in the usual way with supporters travelling across the country to follow their team to away venues.

Talks over what the most appropriate grounds are to use in this scenario are continuing as officials try to find a way for football to return amid the coronavirus pandemic but St George’s Park is not being considered, while the use of Wembley has not been discounted.

However, there are issues under consideration, which include how likely fans are to gather outside the stadium and how easy it is for police to control the surrounding areas.

Premier League shareholders had planned to meet on Friday after the government update but will now take time to understand the Prime Minister’s latest advisory on lockdown and social distancing ahead of their meeting on Monday.

The new date will give the Premier League and its clubs time to consider government plans more fully. Clubs remain hopeful they will be able to begin training in the third week in May, ahead of a return to match action potentially in the middle of June

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