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Coronavirus: Gary Neville discusses risk football authorities must take to resume matches

Gary Neville: "If this was a non-economic decision, there would be no football for months. What we're seeing now is that people are assessing risk"

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Speaking on The Football Show, Gary Neville believes discussions over when football can return are currently being driven by economic reasons

Gary Neville believes economic forces are driving talk of football's return in England and says authorities must weigh up the risk a re-start would bring.

On Tuesday, it was announced by the French Prime Minister that no sporting events, even those behind closed doors, could take place in the country before September, meaning Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 seasons will not resume.

The Premier League and other European leagues had been given until May 25 by UEFA to provide plans to restart their season, but FIFA Medical Committee chairman Michel D'Hooghe believes football should not return until September 1 at the earliest.

Speaking on The Football Show, Neville gave his latest views on the situation surrounding the return of football in light of the recent developments across the continent.

'What is the risk we're willing to take?'

"We're hearing different things every day, but I think if this was a non-economic decision, there would be no football for months. What we're seeing now is that people are assessing risk. What is the risk we're willing to take to bring football back?

"The reasons we're discussing football coming back at this moment in time are purely economic reasons, but I get it. I'm across the road from a construction site in the centre of Manchester, and there are people still wandering around who have been for the past four or five weeks.

"These people will see it as a risk that's no greater than the industry that we're in. There will be people who will look at it as a risk factor, but if people are really serious about putting health first, we wouldn't be discussing football returning at this moment in time, but players themselves will want to go and play.

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There are big prizes up for grabs and huge economic loss that's going to be incurred and it does cloud minds in terms of the level of risk people are willing to place on lives in order for the return of football.
Gary Neville

"Players at the lower levels will want to go and play because they'll recognise that the alternative is bad - 1,400 players are out of contract in three months so they'll need football to resume so their livelihoods can continue.

"You've got clubs who've got huge investments in this season, in respect to clubs at the top of divisions. There are big prizes up for grabs and huge economic loss that's going to be incurred and it does cloud minds, in terms of the level of risk people are willing to place on lives in order for the return of football."

Would a September return force the end of the 2019/20 season?

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Brighton striker Glenn Murray has backed comments from FIFA's top medical official that football should not return until around September

"I think it's very difficult to pick up the league going into September because of the contract situations, with players at existing clubs.

"A lot of players are out of contract across Europe. An extra month might be palatable, but the idea of going into August and September is something that would be very difficult to implement.

"The French government has stepped in. Our government is testing the water, typical of what our government do, they test the water over the last few days to see if it is palatable to the fans, the public, for football to return.

"They drip feed a bit in each day, as do the Premier League, test the water, see what the feeling is and then make a decision on the back of that. The reality is, my feeling is the Premier League will probably wait for the Bundesliga to see how they go, and then they'll react off that.

"I keep coming back to it; the minute one member of staff or player goes into intensive care, what are they going to do? What are they going to do?

"That's the bit on one shoulder telling them: 'It's a risk, it's a risk.' And they're not sure. They really are not sure at this time how to deal with it."

What needs to happen before football returns?

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The Premier League and other European leagues have been given until May 25 by UEFA to provide plans to restart their season

"The government have to give the green light for football to be played from a health and safety point of view. I don't think the Premier League, EFL or any league is going to go against government guidelines.

"I was saying this six weeks ago when the government were saying it was OK to go to Cheltenham, OK to go to a Stereophonics concert, because there wasn't any evidence that mass gatherings were causing a problem, and then a week later they changed their mind and they were flip-flopping all over the place when the Spanish League, Italian league, MLS were all closing down, I was saying they had to make a decision.

"If there was an economic package put in place for football - and I will keep banging on about this loan - to protect the PL, EFL and players for a year, you will then get a sensible decision on health. Then it can be one step at a time.

"At the moment, we are still seeing economic reasons driving the outcome on whether football returns or not."

How are Salford responding to the pandemic?

There has been a meeting at Salford between manager, sporting director, medical department and the chairman
Image: There has been a meeting at Salford between manager, sporting director, medical department and the chairman

"We were trying to plan about how to return to training safely if football was to start up again in June as you have to plan for every scenario. What we talked about was when players come into the training ground where do they get changed? How do they travel to matches? How do they stay separate from each other on the training pitch?

"How do they lessen the risk of infecting each other that they would ordinarily do so in normal scenarios? All those things bring risk, especially when you mark each other on corners in a contact sport like football, including players shaking hands and hugging after a goal. That's what the FIFA medical officer is talking about.

"We couldn't get our head around the idea of our players going back home to their families, who have been out mixing again due to the ease in the lockdown measures. Then the players start to get back to a normal life.

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Sky Sports News' chief reporter Bryan Swanson has the latest news on the potential return of the Premier League

"Even though there will be social distancing in place, there will be no way we could control our players and their families. Even if you keep a sterile environment at your football club, you are going to break that in your home and social environment.

"Then you put the idea of the Premier League putting the players in a quarantined environment at somewhere like St George's Park where they are all locked in and only travel out from there. That could be delivered at Premier League level but it wouldn't be deliverable at League One or League Two level.

"We're talking about £200,000 of costs for testing at Premier League level - the League One and League Two clubs haven't got that money. We believe at League One and League Two level that football is undeliverable. And then you listen to the medical officer at FIFA and the challenges are so great. That's why France and Holland have said 'let's resume in September when we have more clarity'."

Project Restart: What's the state of play across Europe?

Jadon Sancho takes on Alphonso Davies at the Allianz Arena
Image: The Bundesliga will return on May 9 if the German government gives it the green light

England - Premier League

The Premier League will hold further talks this week, as it targets a return behind closed doors in June.

Scotland - Premiership

The SPFL board is due to meet on Monday afternoon for the first time since April 10, when all 42 SPFL clubs voted on proposals to conclude the season below the top division.

France - Ligue 1

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French football expert Jonathan Johnson explains the possible permutations after the Ligue 1 season was ended due to the coronavirus crisis

The Ligue 1 and 2 seasons will not resume after French Prime Minister Eduoard Philippe declared an end to all sporting events in France until September.

Italy - Serie A

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has announced professional sports teams can resume training on May 18 with Serie A potentially resuming in June.

Germany - Bundesliga

The Bundesliga is ready to return on May 9 if the German government gives it the green light, league officials have confirmed.

Netherlands - Eredivisie

The Dutch Eredivisie season has been ended with immediate effect, meaning league leaders Ajax have been denied the title. There will also be no promotion to the Dutch Eredivisie or relegation from the top flight, following an agreement reached over a video conference call between the Dutch FA (KNVB) and clubs.

Find out the full story across Europe here

How many people are needed for a football match?

Sky Sports' Gerard Brand...

'The answer, as you'd expect, varies.

'Some reports suggest a Premier League game needs anything between 250 and 500 personnel present, whereas lower down in the Football League there has been suggestions that anything between 100 and 180 are needed in a stadium.

'As well as around 60-70 staff on the playing and officiating side, matchday and safety staff take up a large chunk, as well as at least 70 broadcast media for live televised games, 40 for non-live games, plus written press if deemed essential.

'In Germany, detailed guidelines have been published claiming a maximum of 322 people are needed in and around stadiums for a football match to go ahead.'

We look at the numbers involved here

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