The Premier League and its clubs are “frightened to death” about publicly backing the resumption of the season as they do not want to be held liable if someone dies because of the coronavirus, television pundit Gary Neville said on Sunday.
Professional soccer has been suspended since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has infected over 182,000 people in the United Kingdom, killing more than 28,000.
The 20 Premier League clubs held a conference call on Friday in which they looked at plans for a resumption of training this month but deferred making a decision on resuming the season until the government gave the go-ahead.
The government had originally set May 7 as the day it would review lockdown restrictions.
“The PL are having a CV nightmare. They keep spouting health first but then brief constantly ‘We have to re-start’,” former Manchester United great Neville wrote on Twitter.
“I’d respect them more if they said, ‘We accept the increase in health risk but it’s one we are willing to take’. They won’t as they are frightened to death!”
When a Twitter user asked him what would happen if they restarted the season and someone died, Neville said: “That’s why we haven’t heard one single prominent CEO, chairman, owner or executive open his mouth to back the re-start.
“Scared to death of the liability and blame.”
The clubs have reviewed plans for resuming training which will initially be restricted to small groups of players with no use of indoor facilities.
The call comes after a Perth-based agent hatched a bold ploy to stage the rest of the season in Western Australia’s capital.
Gary Williams’ idea to bring the 20 teams to Perth and have them play the remaining 92 games of the 2019-20 season in the city is very much at the embryonic stage and yet to receive any sort of formal backing.
Despite strict health protocols looking likely to leave the plan dead in the water, Williams claims to have already secured “positive feedback” from clubs in England and government figures in WA.
A stack of clearances would need to be in place for the ambitious project to be possible, most notably from the Australian Border Force (ABF).
State government would also need to come on board with exemptions, as well as access to Optus Stadium and other venues for training and games.
⚽🏆 The @premierleague in Perth?
📻 A lot needs to go right, but the timing is 'brilliant' for worldwide coverage, as facilities, health and safety are in the ideal place, says Gary Williams.
— ABC Grandstand (@abcgrandstand) May 3, 2020
Williams, who has previously been involved in bringing Sheffield United FC and West Ham United FC to Perth, says he will discuss venue availability and other issues with VenuesWest chief executive David Etherton this week.
“The government of Western Australia regularly speaks to a variety of people about future events in Perth,” a government spokesperson said.
“The current global circumstances make Western Australia and our outstanding venues even more attractive than normal.
“Any consideration of hosting major events would require compliance with strict health protocols that would be determined based on the best possible medical advice.”
The prospect of so many of the world’s best footballers arriving in Perth may be rendered impossible before Williams has even had a chance to make a formal proposal, with some EPL clubs having already registered their opposition to completing the season at neutral venues.
“Hopefully in the next week we can get it a step further then go back to the EPL,” Williams told ABC Grandstand.
“I’ve rung quite a few people, clubs and contacts over there (in England), and got some real positive feedback.
“The government has been really positive.”
The EPL season has been suspended indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with leaders Liverpool needing just two more wins to guarantee its first English league title since 1990.