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No decision made on Premier League return, but clubs told games will take place at neutral venues

Another meeting between the 20 clubs is believed to have been scheduled for next week

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The Premier League remains indefinitely suspended (Martin Rickett/PA)

The Premier League remains indefinitely suspended (Martin Rickett/PA)

PA

The Premier League remains indefinitely suspended (Martin Rickett/PA)

The latest meeting of Premier League clubs has resulted in clubs reaffirming their desire to try and complete the current season, yet they admit those plans will only go ahead if they get the green light from the UK government.

Premier League chiefs have held discussions with UK Culture Minister Oliver Dowden in recent days after proposals to resume matches on June 8 were revealed last weekend, yet those plans have been cast into doubt in recent days following the decision of the French and Dutch leagues to abandon their seasons.

While Premier League chiefs have been eager to promote a united front in their efforts to restart football, widespread reports have suggested some clubs and players are reluctant to play while there remains so much uncertainty around the spread of Covid-19.

Ireland midfielder Conor Hourihane and Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero are among those who have expressed reservations about a return to action and it appears we are edging closer towards a decision with another meeting between the 20 clubs believed to have been scheduled for next week.

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After their latest conference call concluded on Friday, the Premier League released a statement that appeared to suggest their efforts to restart matches may not be a hope rather than an expectation as they await guidance from government officials.

"At a meeting of Premier League Shareholders today, clubs discussed possible steps towards planning to resume the 2019/20 season, when it is safe and appropriate to do so," read the statement.

"It was reiterated that the thoughts of all are with those directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the Premier League's priority is the health and safety of players, coaches, managers, club staff, supporters and the wider community.

"The League and clubs are considering the first tentative moves forward and will only return to training and playing with Government guidance, under expert medical advice and after consultation with players and managers.

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Aston Villa's Irish midfielder Conor Hourihane. Photo: Reuters

Aston Villa's Irish midfielder Conor Hourihane. Photo: Reuters

REUTERS

Aston Villa's Irish midfielder Conor Hourihane. Photo: Reuters

"The League welcomed the creation of the Government medical working group for a return of elite sport, which met for the first time this morning.

"No decisions were taken at today's Shareholders’ meeting and clubs exchanged views on the information provided regarding "Project Restart".

"It was agreed that the PFA, LMA, players and managers are key to this process and will be further consulted.

"The clubs reconfirmed their commitment to finishing the 2019/20 season, maintaining the integrity of the competition and welcomed the Government’s support."

The UK government are expected to review their current lockdown measures that have been put in place to deal with the spread of coronavirus next Thursday, with another video conference among member clubs expected to be staged soon after that fresh clarification arrives.

Meanwhile, it is understood that Premier League clubs have been told the remaining matches of the 2019-20 season must be played at neutral venues.

The clubs were presented with the league's 'Project Restart' plans at Friday's meeting on Friday, but it is understood there is no possibility that it can now finish on a home-and-away basis for safety reasons.

The restart plans were understood to have been well received, but there remains opposition on competition and integrity grounds about the idea of finishing the season at neutral venues.

Clubs are expected to vote on the key principles of 'Project Restart' some time after May 7, when the Government must review the current UK lockdown.

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber said on Thursday that the idea of not playing matches home and away was a "further imperfection" on top of games being behind closed doors.

The UK national football policing lead, Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts of South Yorkshire Police, told the PA news agency on Wednesday that playing all matches in the Premier League and EFL at their original venues would "present challenges" for the emergency services at a time when they are already stretched.

Online Editors