Neutral venues needed to finish EPL season

Clubs are still hoping the English Premier League season can be completed

English Premier League clubs have been told the remaining matches of the 2019-20 season would have to be played at neutral venues.

The clubs were presented with the league's 'Project Restart' plans at a meeting on Friday, and while a statement was issued reconfirming the clubs' commitment to finishing the season, 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 UK Government must review the current lockdown.

It is understood there were still no discussions around declaring the season null and void or curtailing it, with France and Holland having been forced to end their competitions because of government orders.

Return-to-training protocols, which include wearing face masks or snoods, were presented to clubs. Teams will consult with playing and management staff on the proposals, which are still subject to approval.

It is understood the league is still working towards a best-case scenario of play being able to resume from the week beginning June 8.

A statement from the Premier League on Friday afternoon read: "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. "

"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."

The statement added: "The clubs reconfirmed their commitment to finishing the 2019-20 season, maintaining integrity of the competition and welcomed the Government's support."