London Mayor Sadiq Khan has expressed his opposition to the Premier League’s hopes of resuming play in the capital city. The top flight has earmarked a date of June 12 to restart the 2019/20 campaign after the United Kingdom Government indicated professional sport could return at the start of next month if the easing of lockdown restrictions goes to plan.
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The Premier League’s Project Restart proposal to complete the season at neutral venues was poorly received by clubs on Monday. Richard Masters, the chief executive, admitted “everybody would prefer to play home and away if at all possible”. Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur – the three biggest teams in London – were among those to express their dissatisfaction.
Of the remaining 92 fixtures, 22 are scheduled to take place in London while Watford have five home matches left at Vicarage Road.
The capital has been one of the worst-affected regions in the UK from the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the infection rate in the city coming down in recent weeks, Khan believes patience is required before attempting to get Premier League football back underway.
A spokesperson for the London Mayor told the Evening Standard: “Sadiq is extremely keen for the Premier League and professional sport in general to resume. However, 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.
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“As a Liverpool fan, Sadiq of course wants the Premier League to return, but it can only happen when it is safe to do so, and it cannot place any extra burden on the NHS and emergency services.”
Premier League chiefs, the PFA and a senior players from every clubs are meeting on Tuesday to discuss health and safety ahead of a step up in training. The top flight are also due to hold talks with Oliver Dowden – Secretary of State for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – and the Metropolitan Police on Thursday. The subject of venues will be discussed amid concerns crowds could gather outside grounds, with games set to take place behind closed doors.
Khan’s spokesperson added: “Sadiq is also concerned about the welfare of players competing in all professional sports, not just football.
“There are huge questions to be asked how players could train safely, how they would travel to matches and how they could play competitive matches without the risk of spreading infection.”
A number of top players have expressed concerns about returning to Premier League action while the country remains engulfed by the coronavirus crisis.
Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling said: “The moment we do go back, it just needs to be a moment where it’s not just for footballing reasons, it’s safe for not just us footballers but the whole medical staff, referees.
“I don’t know how that’s going to work, but I feel like once that side of the people’s safety and the player’s safety is secured and their wellbeing is looked after then that’s the right time to go back in.
“Until then, I’m…how can I say…not scared but reserved and thinking what the worst outcome could be. At the same time I’m looking forward to it and I really want to get back but hopefully it will all be well when we do get back.”
Danny Rose, who joined Newcastle United on loan from Tottenham in January, added: “The government’s saying bring back football to boost the morale of the nation, I don’t give a **** about the nation’s morale. People’s lives are at risk!
“Football shouldn’t be spoken about till numbers have dropped massively. It’s b******s!”
Three teams look set be relegated from the Premier League come what may after FA chairman Greg Clarke spelled out to clubs that the the governing body would not allow them just to scrap the current campaign.
As a result, Liverpool will also be crowned champions of sorts – even on a points-per-game basis if the remaining fixtures cannot be played.
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