May 13, 2020
Earlier on Wednesday, it was reported that South Yorkshire Police Deputy Chief Constable, Mark Roberts has suggested that Premier League club could play matches in their home stadiums, instead of playing in eight to ten neutral venues for the remainder of the season. It seemed like football had a chance of returning this season.
However, Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins, who would be in charge of policing at Old Trafford and the Etihad Stadium, has poured cold water on the bid to play matches at home stadiums for the remainder of the season. Hopkins suggested that fans could make their way to stadiums, which would be a safety issue.
Manchester’s top policeman even suggested that playing inn neutral venues is something he is not convinced by, which asks questions as to whether the remainder of the season could actually be played out. However, sooner or later football would need to return and these fears will always be there and would need to be solved.
Premier League bosses were apparently fighting an uphill battle to bring football back for the remainder of the season and now it seems a much more difficult task to overcome given the comments of Chief Constable Hopkins, which could seemingly end hope of football being played out for the remainder of the season and possibly the next season.
Hopkins obviously has some solid issues that could become a reality, which would cause safety issues with social distancing and the fact the lockdown in the country is not yet over and still looks a long way off. The Premier League would need to put something special in place for the police to allow this. Chief Constable Hopkins said;
“What we’re fearful of is that people will turn up, either at neutral or home grounds, which would be problematic.
“I have no doubt the [Manchester] City v Liverpool match will attract crowds, whether they’re allowed in the grounds or not.
“It needs very, very careful thinking through. We have to get to a point where it can be done safely.”
Clubs could ask supporters not to travel to stadiums, but there are sections of people in like that do not listen to anything and even the prospect of a deadly virus in the country does not seem to stop them from making silly decisions. There are apparently gatherings this weekend – protesting the lockdown. Forest Gump had more intelligence.
The Premier League seems to have received the backing of the Government for Project Restart, but the ultimate decision will be made by the respective ground safety authorities, in liaison with local police forces. Public safety will remain paramount. It might be that this stops football from restarting once again.
Police could be deployed outside stadiums, however, at this point in time, they have a lot to do without having a presence outside stadiums on match days. Stewards could disperse fans from gathering, but they don’t have applicable laws behind them to serve as a deterrent. There will need to be guarantees that there will be no strain on authorities.
I don’t know how those guarantees could be made. Private security maybe, but surely that will be a cost applied to each home stadium, meaning the clubs will have to pay and for that reason, with finances being hit already, it might be another spanner in the works. Those with this decision on their heads may have a tough few weeks ahead of them.