Premier League clubs are now united against proposals to restart the season at neutral venues, with chief executive Richard Masters confirming the issue of ending the current campaign before it is completed has been discussed by member clubs for the first time.
The Premier League's 'Project Restart' plan designed to get the game back on track amid the Covid-19 crisis has run into trouble in recent weeks after police authorities confirmed they would not sanction a return to action if all 20 grounds were used to stage games.
With the Premier League under pressure to stage matches at a limited number of venues, proposals were drawn up to play games at neutral venues with a possible restart date of June 12.
With clubs in the lower half of the Premier League such as Brighton, West Ham, Watford and Southampton expressing strong reservations about giving up home advantage for matches that would all be played without spectators present, Monday's video conference meeting of all 20 clubs has concluded with a united front being shown.
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"Everybody would prefer to play home and away if at all possible," confirmed chief executive Masters.
"It's clear to see that some clubs feel more strongly about that than others. It is an ongoing dialogue and we've been talking to the authorities about the conditions in which we could get the Premier League back up and running and taking all that advice on board.
"We are working flat out to create a responsible, safe, and deliverable model to complete the season. No decisions will be made until after we have talked to players and managers and those meetings are scheduled for later this week."
Discussions are not expected to be held with police, UK government officials and players over the next steps, but it is now clear that the season may not restart unless the neutral venue issue is removed from the plan.
The latest Premier League meeting also saw clubs consider ending the current season for the first time, but they remain committed to trying to find a way to complete the campaign.
"It was the first time we discussed curtailment - it's still our aim to finish the season obviously but it's important to discuss all the options with our clubs," Masters added.
"We won’t be playing until the middle of June, it doesn’t seem quite right to be talking about playing before we’ve actually taken the decision to return to the first stage of training, but obviously in terms of how those matches will take place, there’s a lot of water to pass under the bridge and we will continue to assess the circumstances then."
"What I can say is that all of the talk was about finishing the season. No conclusions were reached on any other models. Those are future conversations we may need to have.
"Speaking today is an opportunity to share our current position on what is undoubtedly a hugely challenging time for everybody. In today’s meeting, it was reiterated that Premier League clubs absolutely puts football into context.
"So many lives have been lost and so many others deeply affected. The Premier League, our clubs and our players have provided vital support to their communities and the NHS and will continue to do so after matches recommence.
"The Government last night signalled its road map for easing lockdown and during the meeting today we heard news about further announcements about a return to live sport. We welcome these first steps and we’re ready to play our part.
"We’re working flat out with clubs and stakeholders – that's Government, our broadcast partners, the FA, the EFL, the PFA, the LMA – to create a responsible, safe and deliverable model to complete the season. The first tentative step is to return to training on a socially-distanced basis, and we are making some progress on that.
"We have protocols created and reviewed, we have a testing company appointed, but the important consultation with players and managers is the next step, nothing has been agreed and nothing will be agreed until we have spoken to both the managers and the players.
"Like all industries, we must plan for getting football back up and running, so much depends upon it. Of course, safety comes first and we must listen to the Government, the authorities and the medical experts and continue to follow their advice.
"That is exactly what we’re doing – we’re getting ourselves into the best position to resume the season but only when the conditions are right."