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Premier League chief executive Richard Masters Q&A: Neutral venues, trophy lift & VAR

Premier League boss looks ahead to the proposed June 17 restart

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Premier League clubs will resume talks over the possible curtailment of this season next week, according to the competition's chief executive Richard Masters

The Premier League is set to return on June 17, but questions remain such as where matches will be played, will VAR be used and when can supporters return to stadiums?

Sky Sports News' chief reporter Bryan Swanson spoke exclusively to the Premier League's chief executive Richard Masters to go through the key talking points on the league's proposed return.

How were the talks on setting a provisional date of return?

"The talks were intense. Yesterday, to put a new staging post in the ground wasn't a vote but it was supported by everybody.

"To get there we have got to go through a lot of hard work and more consultation. There is still a lot of work to be done before we can kick-off."

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Paul Merson believes the return of the Premier League will give the British public a lift after fearing the competition might be brought to a premature end.

How much of a morale boost is this?

"Hopefully it will be a huge morale boost and that is what we've been working towards.

"We've got some incredible fans in this country and we all know the Premier League as we know and love it won't be fully back until we have fans back through the turnstiles.

"But, getting it back on our TV screens for people to enjoy will hopefully give the whole country a boost."

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Masters says he is optimistic supporters will be allowed to attend matches in the competition on a phased basis in the 2020/21 season.

Are you preparing for next season without fans?

"No one knows when matches will move away from the behind-closed-doors model and it is right to have contingency plans in place, but there is optimism at the Premier League and at clubs that we will see fans back in the stadiums next season and it may happen on a phased basis.

"Of course [next season] has been discussed but we are dealing with the issues of the 2019/20 season as a priority. We will come onto the issue of a start date for next season when we have assurances about when we can finish."

What's been the most encouraging trend so far?

"Just seeing players back at the training ground has been a positive.

"The testing programme has been reassuring in the sense that we've had 12 positive test out of over 2,700. That seems to be working and is coming back with the numbers we anticipated.

"Also, seeing the Bundesliga having now had three matchdays under their belt is a confidence builder that we will be able to do the same."

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Masters says it is reassuring numbers of positive coronavirus tests in the competition are low and discusses the risk to players and staff from BAME backgrounds

What's your message to BAME players who are statistically more at risk from COVID-19?

"We understand the anxiety and we are aware of what is an emerging science. It seems clear there is a small increased risk for people of BAME background across all age groups.

"We have been able to listen to those concerns and put medical experts up to try and reassure.

"We are trying to create the safest possible environment with our protocols and testing process.

"From the player's perspective, as fit, young men they are in a very low-risk group and hopefully we have been able to reassure those people.

"Ultimately, if a player decides they don't want to come back to training or indeed play, that is their prerogative."

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Masters admits a small number of the remaining games in this season's competition could be played at neutral venues, with a decision expected by the end of next week

Will clubs be able to play remaining games at home?

"It is our preference to play the games as they were originally planned, at home and away. We are in discussions with the authorities, there are some concerns and we are working through those.

"In the next seven to 10 days we will have a clearer picture about whether any of our fixtures are going to have to be played in neutral venues. We hope the number will be low.

"They (the police) have legitimate concerns but we think we can mitigate some of the issues they're trying to deal with. Ultimately, we want the season to be played out on the pitch and we're discussing a number of options to make it as fair as possible."

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 07: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates with his players the UEFA Champions League Semi Final second leg match between Liverpool and Barcelona at Anfield on May 7, 2019 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jurgen Klopp
Image: Liverpool could win the Premier League title at a neutral venue under police proposals

Will Liverpool play any games at Anfield? Will there be a trophy presentation?

"That's part of the discussion and while they are ongoing, I can't reveal any details.

"We will do everything we possibly can to deliver a trophy presentation. I think there's a way of doing it safely and with the regulations. It's really important to be able to mark that moment because of all the efforts that have gone into it."

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Phil Thompson is regretful fans won't be present if Liverpool go on to win the Premier League but says it will still be a special moment for the club.

Will VAR be in use for the remainder of the season?

"VAR has its own social distancing issues, but we think there is a way of completing the season with VAR. Absolutely our intention is to complete the season with VAR in place."

When will the Premier League be able to buy and sell players this summer?

"We have had first day discussions about it, but no conclusions yet.

"I think there is a judgement call to be made and I think we'll get to that in the next couple of weeks.

"I suspect the transfer window will open after the end of the season. It's just a question of how long it goes on for."

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Sky Sports News chief reporter Bryan Swanson asks Masters when top flight clubs might be able to operate in a transfer window once again

What would it take for the season to end early?

"I think the most likely scenario is a change in course in the virus and government intervention. If that were to happen, we need to have plans in place so that we go into the start of the season hopefully knowing that if it can't be completed what then happens.

"We have meetings scheduled for next week, the week after and possibly in between. We'll get to a final conclusion on those talks at those meeting."

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Newcastle manager Steve Bruce believes squads will need each of the remaining 19 days before the Premier League's projected return date of June 17 in order to prepare properly and limit the chances of injuries.

Are you considering giving the EFL more money to help them?

"At the moment, we are dealing with our own financial situation. Until we are able to get back playing - until we have a clear plan to start season 2021, we are dealing with our own financial situation.

"So at the moment, we have made good all of our solidarity contributions to the pyramid for 2019/20 and indeed we have forwarded a big chunk of next year's revenue forward and we're committed to completing that.

"But I think what we have to get ourselves into is a situation where we are sure of the Premier League's financial situation at a time when clubs are suffering significant revenue before we can turn to that topic."

Sky Sports will show 64 live Premier League games. In addition to the 39 matches scheduled to be broadcast on Sky before the coronavirus interruption, 25 more matches will be available on both Sky Sports Premier League and Sky's free-to-air Pick channel.

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