- Police have asked how matches putting social distancing at risk will be handled
- Manchester City v Liverpool and the north London derby are still to be played
- Games with relegation at stake could also impact on police staffing schedules
- Police are still unsure whether neutral venues will be used in the Premier League
Police are still waiting for a detailed picture of Project Restart from Premier League clubs
Police have asked how matches which present risks to social distancing would be handled
Liverpool’s visit to Manchester City could impact on police staffing schedules and resources
Police are still in the dark over whether neutral venues will be used for the league resumption
Police are still waiting for a detailed picture of Project Restart from Premier League clubs despite the resumption of games being possibly just 23 days away.
The 13 forces who oversee Premier League grounds have received a questionnaire from high-level police asking how they would handle matches which present a risk to social distancing rules.
Manchester City v Liverpool, the Merseyside and north London derbies, Liverpool v Aston Villa — where Jurgen Klopp’s side could seal the title — plus games with relegation at stake could all impact on police staffing schedules and resources at a time of national emergency.
Police are still in the dark over whether neutral venues will be used and if clubs have crowd dispersal plans in place.
One large urban force have told Sportsmail that they are unconvinced that staging the matches behind closed doors from June 19 will prevent supporters from gathering, and are aware of no other constabulary who disagree on that point.
A spokesman for that force said: ‘We are waiting for more information to come back. We know no more now than we did two weeks ago.’
Convincing police that the resumption of play can be safely managed without a drain on resources is arguably the biggest remaining challenge to Project Restart and is expected to be tackled in a meeting of clubs on Thursday.
Although culture secretary Oliver Dowden has said that the Government are ‘opening the door’ to the resumption of the Premier League, it is highly unlikely that the Home Office would overrule any collective decision by the forces were they to say they were unable to police matches safely.
The successful return of Bundesliga football has fuelled the case for the Premier League to go back.
But another senior police source said that most German matches were taking place in modern stadiums with large open spaces surrounding them, but Premier League clubs such as Crystal Palace, Burnley and Newcastle are set within tight residential areas.
The urban force said that any match crucial to the relegation process would be likely to attract large groups of people.
‘It might be different for clubs who are in mid-table,’ the source said. ‘But anything involving a team who could be relegated would attract people.’
It is understood that the Premier League have asked all 20 clubs to consult with their local authority Safety Advisory Group (SAG) — who are emerging as key players in steering a decision on whether the restart is approved.
The groups are not empowered to approve or prohibit events from taking place. But they do have an influential voice in a decision on whether an event can be safely staged. Police, environmental health and licensing officers are all represented on them.
The picture is complicated by the fact that one SAG’s views on the restart may differ from another’s. That was one of the reasons why neutral venues were proposed, six weeks ago, as a way ahead for Project Restart.
The police preference has always been for neutral venues over conventional home and away matches. That applies to the Championship as well as the Premier League. But neither a precise number of neutral venues nor locations have been offered by the Premier League or EFL.
The opposition of the top division’s bottom six clubs contributed to the notion being bogged down in argument before that level of detail could be discussed. With time ticking down and as many as 20 stadiums needed across the two divisions, a breakthrough is clearly needed.
Several forces have told Sportsmail that they feel clubs have been penny-pinching over costs of policing games in the past few years. Ipswich Town even took Suffolk Police to the Supreme Court to limit the amount they pay on match-days.
With the idea of tax-payers’ money going towards the management of games a deeply unattractive one, clubs may be asked to offer a contribution to work needed to disperse crowds who gather beyond the immediate vicinity of their stadium.