EXCLUSIVE: Premier League matches set to be played at their usual stadiums as police decide clubs CAN host games if they cover the cost of keeping fans out – putting football a step closer to returning
- Police forces are understood to be open to the idea of playing at original venues
- Games can be played at original venues as long as a number of criteria are met
- The country’s top football officer had initially told those complaining about the loss of home advantage to ‘get a grip’
- However, Mark Roberts took a more conciliatory tone on the matter on Tuesday
Premier League clubs could be permitted to finish the season at their own grounds in a major boost for Project Restart.
As MailOnline revealed on Monday, representatives of the Premier League, FA and the EFL held positive talks with the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, police and the Sports Grounds Safety Authority.
That meeting concluded with the Government pledging to look again at allowing clubs to complete fixtures at their own stadiums.
Premier League games are set to be played at original venues if the season eventually restarts
Brighton stood firm in their stance against playing Premier League matches at neutral venues
The Government had been recommending playing the 92 remaining top-flight matches at neutral venues for safety reasons — but there appears to have been a change of heart following lobbying from the Premier League.
The new position is also a positive for the Championship, who are seeking to complete their own season but lack the resources to commandeer other stadiums.
The Government will take the final decision based on advice from the 13 police authorities containing Premier League grounds, but Sportsmail has learned that several forces have already indicated support.
Police forces are understood to have no issues with matches being played at original grounds
It is understood that a number of forces have no issues with matches being played at their original venues, as long as a number of safety criteria can be met.
One of the main reasons for the neutral-venue proposal was a fear over fans turning up en masse outside matches to be played behind closed doors. However, Sportsmail has been told that as long as clubs can provide assurances to their local constabularies that they will draft in enough stewards to ensure the two-metre social distancing guidelines are adhered to, completing the season on a home and away basis is not viewed as an insurmountable obstacle.
Should the clubs also be willing to foot the bill to pay for the officers required, playing matches at their original venues would be possible. In another indication of the changing mood, the Government have held talks with the Premier League about using managers and players to urge fans not to show up at grounds and to stay at home, as all games will be televised.
Football has been suspended in the Premier League since the beginning of March
There is still plenty to discuss before a decision can be made regarding the season’s return
Government sources have insisted that there was never a fixed view at Westminster about the need to stage all games at neutral venues, but there has undoubtedly been a change of emphasis following a rebellion from several leading Premier League clubs at their shareholders’ meeting on Monday.
As Sportsmail reported, at least 12 clubs expressed major reservations about the proposal — a significant increase from the six hardcore rebels who were initially opposed — which led to the Premier League lobbying the Government again.
This change of position was reflected in a statement released yesterday by the country’s senior football police officer, Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts.
He said: ‘We will be jointly exploring a range of options to identify a way forward which minimises any risks to public safety and unnecessary pressure on public services, but facilitates a sensible restart to the season, to support the economic and morale benefits associated with the sport.’
The head of the UK’s football police unit, Mark Roberts, said options were being explored to restart the season while minimising risks to public safety