Gary Neville: Finish the Premier League abroad as UK environment isn't safe enough
All 20 Premier League clubs to join conference call on Friday; Neville suggests league should resume "in an environment that has proven it can handle this virus"
Last Updated: 01/05/20 9:31pm
Gary Neville has suggested the idea of taking the Premier League abroad to a coronavirus-free quarantined environment to finish the season, as the UK environment isn't safe enough.
The Premier League still currently wants to finish this season, in line with UEFA's recommendation, although a return to domestic football is entirely dependent on government approval, and medical advice.
The authorities have been in talks with government officials for weeks, and the clubs are meeting on Friday and later next week to discuss plans about how to proceed.
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However, Neville is beginning to wonder whether the environment in the UK, where 26,771 people have died due to the virus according to Thursday's official figures, is safe enough to house competitive football, even behind closed doors. He has suggested an alternative plan involving taking the final games to a country with sterile coronavirus conditions.
He said on The Football Show: "If the Premier League are really serious about delivering the matches that remain in a safe environment they would move it to the two or three spots that are within three or four hours of this country that are coronavirus free.
"They would take the Premier League players, broadcasters and media over, quarantine for a week or two and then deliver it in an environment that has proven it can handle this virus. There are a couple of hotspots in Europe that haven't got coronavirus which could handle the Premier League finishing.
"If they were serious about it and wanted to deliver it with a safe outcome, they could do that. In this country I'm not sure they can deliver it with the amount of coronavirus which is around, especially with the amount of movement of it out there and the logistic issues. I'm not sure they can deliver what they want to do."
'Even one vote could scupper restart'
Meanwhile, journalist Matt Lawton believes resistance against a restart by just one Premier League club could ultimately result in the current season being abandoned.
According to Lawton, the chief sports correspondent for The Times, there are "a group of clubs" in the Premier League who are sceptical about a return to action in the coming weeks.
But speaking to The Football Show, Lawton explained why opposition from only one club might be all it takes to scupper any proposed restart.
He said: "I think the 14 clubs [majority vote principle] would become irrelevant in this situation. If one club decide they don't want to play, l think it would be incredibly hard to argue against. If a club doesn't want to play, they have a very strong argument - especially if we go to neutral grounds.
"The first argument is the most obvious one and that's the safety of their players. If one club and their players are not happy about playing, and their safety cannot be guaranteed, and l can't see how it can be guaranteed…then a club could very legitimately argue against that [restarting the season].
"Secondly is the neutral venues idea. It's inevitable that is the only way they are going to finish the season. And there is a very legitimate argument against that the integrity of the competition is too far a departure from what they all signed up for in August.
"I think if one club decides they don't want to play, I don't see how they can be forced into it and it would be the end of the situation and the season would have to be curtailed."
With football suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, what is the current situation around Europe's top leagues?
- England - Premier League: The Premier League held further talks on Friday and reiterated its commitment to finish the 2019/20 season, but has not announced a date for clubs to return to training and said they will only do so under government guidance.
- England - EFL: The English Football League (EFL) has warned football cannot resume before adequate testing arrangements are in place for coronavirus.
- England - Non-League: National League clubs have voted in favour of ending the 2019/20 at its current point and cancelling all remaining fixtures.
- Scotland - Premiership: Clubs will meet on May 1 to discuss resumption plans, as well as potential league reconstruction.
- France - Ligue 1: PSG have been crowned champions after it was announced on April 30 that the season was over - but Lyon have raised the possibility of claiming damages after missing out on European qualification.
- Italy - Serie A: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has announced professional sports teams can resume training on May 18.
- Spain - La Liga: Health minister Salvador Illa says professional football in Spain is not likely to return before the summer