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Opinion

Insistence on no relegation by clubs could be fatal blow to hopes of 2019/20 Premier League restart

5 months ago
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The 20 Premier League clubs had their latest meeting on Friday, via video conferencing, announcing afterwards that they are still collectively determined to finish this 2019/20 season.

The government on Friday also made clear their backing for the Premier League to be back playing as soon as possible and playing the outstanding 92 games, though of course only once it was deemed the right time to do so with the virus situation.

The government backing though came with certain conditions, with neutral venues for these remaining 2019/20 PL matches seen as essential, particularly in terms of reducing the chances of fans congregating outside stadiums when games are played.

It was reported that eight to ten stadiums could be used, including Premier League grounds, although of course any match played at a PL stadium wouldn’t feature the team whose ground it is.

The Premier League clubs will discuss the restart proposals once again after the government’s review of the lockdown restrictions on Thursday (7 May).

However, ahead of that next meeting and further discussions, we are now seeing public signs of self-preservation coming to the surface, despite that repetitive collective unity that the Premier League are constantly pushing.

Brighton have been the first to publicly question / challenge the neutral stadiums issue.

They are only two points above the relegation zone and the club’s CEO Paul Barber says the club: ‘Fully appreciate why playing behind closed doors is very likely to be a necessary compromise to play our remaining games…(However) At this critical point in the season, playing matches in neutral venues has, in our view, potential to have a material effect on the integrity of the competition.’

Now BBC Sport have reported:

‘A growing number of Premier League clubs are open to playing the remaining fixtures at neutral venues but with the threat of relegation removed.

Clubs near the bottom of the table feel it is unfair to play in such different conditions when at risk of relegation.

Clubs who risk losing large amounts of money if relegated are also worried their finances could take a further hit if they still have to play matches behind closed doors in next year’s Championship….those near the bottom are concerned playing matches at neutral stadiums, behind closed doors and with the ongoing uncertainty over the availability of players whose contracts expire on 30 June makes for a vastly different situation to that in which their first 28 or 29 fixtures this season were played.

They argue it is impossible to uphold the integrity of the competition under these circumstances.

If there was no relegation from the Premier League, two or three teams could still be promoted from this year’s Championship and a 22- or 23-team top flight run next season.’

That is all very well BUT a key factor in completing this 2019/20 season is to satisfy broadcasters and avoid massive compensation penalties.

If the Premier League did continue but with the possibility of relegation removed, what exactly are the likes of BT Sport and Sky Sports getting for their money?

When / if the Premier League kicks off again, the title is obviously sewn up.

Whereas the relegation battle still has at least six. possible as many as eight, clubs still involved.

So for TV companies, if no relegation battle to cover, the big / only unknown and drama would be the battle for fourth…?

I can’t see them willing to pay top dollar for that.

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