News | July 21st, 2021
NEUTRAL GROUND OR NOT?
Our Chairman Peter Varney talks about the return of the Premier League and where matches should be played.
After weeks of debate it has finally been decided that the current Premier League season will resume on June 17th. All Premier League players are now back in training and the one positive piece of news is that not a single player has tested positive for Covid-19 giving everyone involved the confidence to resume.
Aston Villa FC will host Sheffield United FC on 17th June, while Manchester City FC will host Arsenal FC.
Those are both rearranged games and will mean all 20 clubs have played 29 matches heading into the weekend of June 19th/21st, when the remaining clubs will return to action. There are 92 matches still to play in total and all matches will be held behind closed doors.
There has been a lot of debate about whether matches are played at home stadia or whether they are played at neutral venues. In my view, it must be one or the other, or it is unfair to those involved in the key matches at the top and bottom of the table. It can’t be right that some teams in the relegation dog fight play at their home ground and others switch to a neutral venue.
It has been suggested that Liverpool FC’s trip to Everton FC and Manchester City FC will switch to neutral venues as well as the remaining London derbies for this season.
It will be strange to watch the matches on TV without the usual crowd atmosphere but totally understandable in the current health crisis. Making sure every match is televised helps keep fans away from stadia but when Liverpool FC win the Premier League or Leeds United FC win promotion it will be extremely hard to keep some supporters away from the stadia wherever the matches are played.
Scheduling of the games will be a key factor in deterring fans from travelling and at present the proposal is that matches on a Friday will kick off at 8:00pm, while on Saturday the times will be 12.30pm, 3:00pm, 5.30pm and 8:00pm.Sunday matches will kick off at 12:00pm, 2:00pm, 4.30pm and 7:00pm, with Monday games starting at 8:00pm.Midweek matches on Tuesdays and Wednesday will kick off at either 6:00pm or 8:00pm.All 92 matches will be broadcast live by the Premier League’s partners – Sky Sports, BT Sport, BBC Sport and Amazon Prime. Sky will show most of the games – 64 in total – with 25 of the games being made free-to-air, including Everton FC vs Liverpool FC on the first full weekend back. BT Sport will show 20 of the games live on their platform.
The BBC will show four live matches, alongside its usual Match of the Day highlight programmes – the first time the channel will televise live Premier League football since the League was formed in 1992. Amazon Prime will also have four live matches.
The situation in the EFL Championship remains unclear but it looks likely the League will restart on 20th June, whereas in Leagues One and Two the likelihood now is that they will not restart.
Health comes before anything else, but there must be fairness in the competition and either all teams play at neutral venues or none do. And matches are played at home venues with appropriate levels of policing as would have been the case if there had been no health crisis in the first place.
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