Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish: Neutral grounds may be the least worst option

Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish is wary of a restart to the Premier League, ahead of a crunch meeting of club supremos today.

The Selhurst Park boss told yesterday’s Andrew Marr programme a return might not be realistic given the number of positive Covid-19 cases still being reported in England.

But he believes the Premier League should try.

“We would be derelict in our duty if we didn’t find a way to try and bring the game back,” said the Palace chief. “It may prove beyond us.

“We are not at the stage of clubs going bust – we would hope we could get some football back before the end of the year but these challenges don’t look likely to go away any time soon. The broadcasters are very supportive. We know we will be damaged financially by this crisis because obviously we have no crowds. That will go on a long time. It is really about damage limitation and seeing what we can salvage, and hopefully no Premier League club is in that situation.

“But down the league where gates are 50 per cent of income, things will get critical very quickly.”

The German Bundesliga might provide a blueprint for a return – but the entire Dynamo Dresden has had to go back into isolation for a fortnight and had to withdraw from the restart next weekend, after one positive test. In all, 10 Bundesliga players were diagnosed with coronavirus in the last week, after 1,724 tests.

“The German example could provide a blueprint for us and clearly we can see some of the early challenges,” said Parish. 

“They may prove insurmountable, but the concern for us is that if they prove insurmountable now then we may be in for a very, very extended period of not being able to play and that has huge ramifications for the game. We are hoping it will be successful.”

If the Premier League is cleared to recommence, all matches could be staged behind closed doors at neutral venues, but Watford, Brighton and Aston Villa are opposing that route.

“Deciding it [the final table] competitively would be best,” he said. “Obviously if we can play in our own stadiums that would be preferable for everybody, but for the moment that situation is with government and the authorities and not with us.

“It is not my proposal – it is being suggested on grounds of public safety. Staff safety is paramount. Are fans gathering outside grounds? The police have made it clear that they don’t think they can police every ground.

“I have enormous sympathy with [Watford chief executive] Scott Duxbury’s position. Having said that, I think it may well prove to be the least worst option.

“It is better than the other option, of points per game or any of the other options. Deciding it competitively would be best. Playing in our stadiums would be best but that is with government and not with us.

“Ending the season now would be hugely unfair to the three clubs who are in the bottom three now.

“There are no easy answers, we have to work through it as a collective and I think we will come out with a consensus in the end.

“Players need to understand what the risks are – both those who want to play and those who do not. The doctors believe we can make it one of the – if not the – safest working environments. But if a player does not want to play, I cannot imagine any circumstances where we would make a player play.

“We would want assurances that we were not taking test resources away from anyone else – anyone more needing than us. We have been told these are private facilities.

“Football is entirely unimportant of course in context of the public health crisis. Everything we do, that has to come first.”


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