By Tony Attwood
One of the fundamental parts of the Premier League’s plan, rather oddly named ‘Project Restart’, (why does it need a name, and if it does, why not just “Resuming the fixture list”?) is that the matches would be played (or as the journalists now say in a desperate attempt to get their word numbers up to the level that the editor requires “played out”), behind closed doors at “around eight to 10 neutral venues” (which I suppose means anything from seven to 11).
This is in response to the issue, first raised here as it happens , that some fans would deliberately come to the stadium in order to celebrate together, while watching on little screens (as opposed to “big screens” as the media like to call them.)
Now what the Telegraph said in relation to all this is that this process would include a rule that “no team would play a match at their home stadium, as the league attempts to ensure that fans do not gather in numbers outside grounds where their teams are playing.”
Well, there’s a problem. Just as we had to point out the problem of playing games at the club’s own stadium, the fact is that these matches would be played at a time when a vast number of supporters are a) bored out of their minds due to lockdown and b) not yet back at work so with tons of time.
Now of course, self-evidently, I don’t know your position, but I find myself normally putting about £100 worth of fuel in my car each week. I filled out the car, by chance, just as lockdown was announced on March 23, which is something like 41 days ago, and I still have 95% of my tank full. During that time I would normally have spent about £600 on fuel. (And in case you are wanting to report me for galavanting around and using 5% of my fuel tank, that was used going to the supermarket).
So I am £600 better off, and am bored out of my mind. As it happens my response would not be to drive to Manchester or somewhere equally bizarre and stand outside the stadium while the game continues inside, but I know quite a few people who would.
This notion that moving the match would stop people gathering comes about because the English media is still by and large propagating the myth that Thatcher put forward in 1980 that “there is no such thing as society”. Remove that nonsense from the brain and immediately it becomes clear that people would travel anywhere for the sheer hell of it, just out of utter boredom and the fun of being in a group of like-minded people.
It still remains the fact that the Cyprus solution is the only solution that will work, because fans can be imprisoned at the airport and sent home (and really guys I do not suggest that you hire a small boat to get to Cyprus – I’ve crossed the Med in a big ship and it can be jolly rough on occasions. It is a lot bigger than it looks on the map.)
Here’s another laugh from the media (this comes from the Express but they may have nicked it from The Telegraph), “The league will select stadiums that are outside densely-populated residential areas, with West Ham’s London Stadium and Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium among those likely to be picked.”
The Taxpayers Stadium in East London (as it is properly known, at least to all taxpayers since we paid for it and Boris gave it to West Ham while making the rest of Londoners pay for its upkeep), is not in an unpopulated area. It’s in East London.
But what it does have is a large public area around the stadium where people can gather and where it would be utterly impossible for the police to order dispersal.
Then the paper continues, “The idea is that the league can then protect the welfare of the players and staff involved and also reduce the potential strain on the emergency services, particularly the NHS.”
I mean I know the Express speaks nonsense, but this is off the scale even for them.
But there is another problem. Six clubs at the foot of the table, any of whom could be relegated if they had a bad run in the ghost games, (why does the media keep calling them “behind closed doors matches” when ghost games is such a better name, and is the one used in many European languages?) are objecting.
The Telegraph quotes Brighton chief executive Paul Barber saying he ‘has made his feelings publicly known and said in a statement on Saturday evening: “We do of course understand that in the very difficult circumstances we are facing that every option must be considered.
‘”But that should only be when safe to do so for all concerned and, if and when we reach that point, we are not in favour of playing our remaining matches at neutral venues.
‘“Five of our nine remaining matches due to be played at the Amex – all five matches are very difficult but four are against some of the biggest clubs in European football.
‘“The disadvantages of us not playing the league’s top teams in our home stadium and in familiar surroundings, even with 27,000 Albion fans very unlikely to be present at the Amex, are very obvious.
‘“Clearly, we must accept there may also be some benefit from playing our remaining four away matches at neutral venues but the fixture list simply isn’t equally balanced at this stage of the season, and we didn’t play our first 29 matches of the season in this way. So, in our opinion, one thing doesn’t cancel out the other.”
So six teams could vote against, leaving only 14 in favour, and that means that the vote would go through, because 14 in favour is enough, under the league’s rules. But only one other club has to object, and that deal will be out.
Here’s the foot of the league
|15||Brighton and Hove Albion||29||6||11||12||32||40||-8||29|
|16||West Ham United||29||7||6||16||35||50||-15||27|
and now have a look at the home table.
|14||Brighton and Hove Albion||14||4||6||4||17||15||2||18|
|18||West Ham United||14||4||3||7||23||26||-3||15|
What we see is that Villa is going to lose out by playing six home games on neutral grounds – which is very unfair.
All they need is one more club to waiver. Southampton certainly won’t be bothered, they only have four home games left.
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