Police open to talks for Premier League clubs to finish season at home grounds | Football

The prospect of Premier League clubs getting the go-ahead to finish the season in their own stadiums has increased after a meeting involving the police, league and government officials.

The meeting on Monday night, also attended by representatives from the Sports Grounds Safety Authority and EFL, has paved the way for a plan to use neutral grounds to be dropped, after Premier League clubs expressed a preference to play behind closed doors in their own stadiums.

The lead police officer on the UK Football Policing Unit, Mark Roberts, has said publicly that neutral grounds are the only option but it is understood he is open to talks with the clubs and government to see whether a safe way can be found for games to be staged in home grounds.

Roberts and local police forces would have to be content it would not place a strain on the emergency services during the coronavirus pandemic or compromise public health. Managers and players are expected to be asked to urge supporters to behave responsibly amid fears they could gather outside grounds or elsewhere.

It is understood the government, represented at the meeting by officials from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, will fall in line with police advice. The Guardian has established that at least one local force would be content for games to be played as normal but without fans; others are waiting for guidance, including from the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

Roberts said on Tuesday: “Following a positive meeting between police, government and football last night, 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.”

Meanwhile, the shadow sports minister, Alison McGovern, called for public scrutiny of the league’s Project Restart plan to help give confidence to athletes and the public. The MP for Wirral South has written to her opposite number, Nigel Huddleston, with 20 questions regarding top-flight football’s mooted return. Central to her concerns are the medical protocols the league submitted to the government this week for consideration.

McGovern has called for any government advice on resumption to be published in the House of Commons library and debated at the DCMS select committee. “I think that most people accept that in a well-functioning democracy that is what you do,” she said. “You put yourself up for scrutiny.

“I don’t think that the government can say to any sporting body, least of all the Premier League: ‘This is up to you.’ I don’t think they can say that because nobody in any governing body or any sports club anywhere across the United Kingdom is going to have access to the kind of medical and scientific expertise that the government does.”

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, feels talk of restarting the season is inappropriate. “With the country still in the grips of this crisis, and hundreds of people dying every day, he believes that it is too early to be discussing the resumption of the Premier League and top-flight sport in the capital,” a spokesperson told the Evening Standard.

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