Clubs warned that not restarting at neutral venues could cost them more than relegation; at least 14 clubs need to back the proposals before games can restart
Monday 11 May 2020 18:16, UK
A majority of clubs in the bottom half of the Premier League want relegation to be scrapped if and when the season restarts.
All 20 clubs want to finish the season but most clubs in the bottom half of the table believe it will be unfair if any clubs are relegated when the final 92 games are likely to be played behind closed doors at neutral grounds.
Premier League clubs will be warned at a meeting on Monday that the season not restarting at neutral venues could cost them more than relegation and they must consider the long-term consequences of voting against the proposal.
At least six - Brighton, West Ham, Watford, Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Norwich - have reservations about proposals to finish the season by playing at neutral grounds without fans.
Extra support could prove vital with at least 14 clubs needing to back the proposals before games can restart.
Those who want the threat of relegation removed think that games would be played in completely different circumstances to the rest of the season so it would be unfair to relegate three teams on that basis.
They argue playing games at neutral venues behind closed doors would compromise the integrity of the competition.
Not all teams have the same number of home and away games left to play and the group feel that is unfair.
There are also concerns some players may refuse to play for health and safety reasons, while others are out of contract at the end of June and may refuse to play beyond that date.
The Premier League will also discuss drastic potential rule changes, including the introduction of five substitutions and the scrapping of VAR, which could make the remaining games different from the rest of the season.
Scrapping relegation was brought up at the last Premier League shareholders' meeting two weeks ago but not discussed in depth.
The clubs who want relegation removed have been warned that scrapping it would make the competition less attractive to broadcasters and could affect the value of TV contracts.
EFL chairman Rick Parry has threatened legal action if relegation is scrapped and Championship clubs are prevented from being promoted to the Premier League.
Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher…
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a newspaper article about the bottom six clubs being vocal about reasons the league shouldn't go on, and they were legitimate reasons. I think everyone in the Premier League had them, in terms of fan safety, player safety, testing, taking things away from the NHS.
What really got me off the back of the last meeting was that it has since emerged that the clubs weren't opposed to neutral venues; because as soon as relegation was taken off the table, it was fine to play at neutral grounds.
Those clubs around the bottom lost a bit of their argument when that came out. For so long they've been vociferous speaking about reasons, and that's what we want. The teams at the top find it very difficult to talk about the season going on because it looks insensitive, whereas it's completely different for teams at the bottom.
But a lot of that, when they said it was OK to play at neutral venues when relegation was scrapped, I just thought it really ruined their argument.
I think they lost a little bit of sympathy, the teams at the bottom, who have been arguing about different, legitimate reason why they shouldn't play. But as soon as relegation was taken off the table, they were fine with it. That doesn't really sit well.
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Top of the agenda at Monday's meeting is a possible return to training, with some players concerned about returning in tightly-controlled circumstances, although the majority of Premier League players want to start training and playing again.
The proposals contain guidance about testing and monitoring players and staff for coronavirus, keeping the working environment as safe as possible, and protecting all players and club employees at all times.
If the proposals are approved by the government and Public Health England, plus clubs, players and managers, then non-contact training sessions in small groups would resume.
As Premier League clubs gear up to discuss 'Project Restart' at a crucial meeting on Monday, the Sunday Supplement panel argued in favour of the game returning soon - as safely as possible - for economic and social reasons.