Why Brighton, Arsenal, West Ham and Manchester City are Premier League's preferred neutral venues

Premier League clubs have been told remaining matches of the 2019-20 season must be played behind closed doors at neutral venues - if the Government gives the go-ahead.

Sunday, 3rd May 2020, 8:13 am
Brighton and Hove Albion's Amex Stadium

The clubs were presented with the league's 'Project Restart' plans at a meeting on Friday but it is understood there is no possibility it can finish on a home-and-away basis for safety reasons.

The Premier League will look at using between eight and 10 stadiums and will be granted licences by the sports grounds safety authority.

Venues will be selected for ease of social distancing, for keeping people away from the outside of the stadium and local infection rates.

West Ham's London Stadium

There was a preference for grounds – such as Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium and Brighton’s Amex Stadium – which are located away from highly populated urban centres.

The Amex Stadium is more than four miles from the centre of Brighton and around seven from Hove.

West Ham’s London Stadium and Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium are also certain to be used.

It is also understood the EFL is still intent on playing the remainder of its campaigns behind closed doors at the regular venues, but the governing body is aware current plans may need to change.

The Emirates Stadium

Clubs are expected to vote on the key principles of 'Project Restart' some time after May 7, when the Government must review the current UK lockdown.

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber said last Thursday that the idea of not playing matches home and away was a "further imperfection" on top of games being behind closed doors.

It is understood there were still no discussions around declaring the season null and void or curtailing it, with France and Holland having been forced to end their competitions because of government orders.

The league is working with the Government on the restart plans and the first meeting took place on Friday between medical officials from sports governing bodies, including the Premier League's Mark Gillett, and representatives from Public Health England.

Manchester City's Etihad Stadium

Return-to-training protocols, which include wearing face masks or snoods, were presented to clubs. Teams will consult with playing and management staff on the proposals, which are still subject to approval.

Brighton striker Glenn Murray and Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero are among players who have expressed their concerns about returning to action in the midst of the pandemic.

Murray described the prospect of playing while wearing masks as "farcical."

It is understood the league is still working towards a best-case scenario of play being able to resume from the week beginning June 8.

The Bundesliga is in line to start before then, with German clubs returning to training in recent weeks ahead of a potential mid-May start.

But the challenge of resuming matches during the pandemic was highlighted by Cologne, who confirmed on Friday that three people at the club had contracted Covid-19. Despite that, the club say "group training can continue".

As well as returning to play, further discussions will also be required on the subject of player temporary contract extensions for individuals whose deals expire on June 30.

A statement from the Premier League read: "The league and clubs are considering the first tentative moves forward and will only return to training and playing with Government guidance, under expert medical advice and after consultation with players and managers."

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