Six clubs reject behind closed doors scheme, is that enough to scupper it?

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

13 Newcastle United 29 9 8 12 25 41 -16 35
14 Southampton 29 10 4 15 35 52 -17 34
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
17 Watford 29 6 9 14 27 44 -17 27
18 AFC Bournemouth 29 7 6 16 29 47 -18 27
19 Aston Villa 28 7 4 17 34 56 -22 25
20 Norwich City 29 5 6 18 25 52 -27 21

and now have a look at the home table.

13 Newcastle United 14 5 6 3 12 12 0 21
14 Brighton and Hove Albion 14 4 6 4 17 15 2 18
15 Watford 14 4 5 5 16 17 -1 17
16 AFC Bournemouth 14 4 5 5 17 21 -4 17
17 Aston Villa 13 5 2 6 18 24 -6 17
18 West Ham United 14 4 3 7 23 26 -3 15
19 Norwich City 14 4 3 7 19 26 -7 15
20 Southampton 15 4 2 9 16 31 -15 14

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.

8 Replies to “Six clubs reject behind closed doors scheme, is that enough to scupper it?”

  1. As much as I love football myself – it is something that will surely go down in infamy against the premier league that whilst the whole world is in mourning – they persist in project – WE NEED THE MONEY.
    They have certainly lost this football fan on their astonishing – we care and excuse streaming.

  2. Mike

    I couldn’t agree me. It seems there’s a ‘back at whatever cost to human life’ attitude, and quite a lot of it emanates from the media, at least from what I can gather from the bits a pieces I see.

    As Tony says, the betting industry could be the prime mover in all this, but the media aren’t far behind.

    Having said that, at least one hack amongst the assembled rabble down at the Toppled Bollard seems to be living in the real world, namely one Oliver Holt.

    Now, despite being one of the more highly regarded hacks, in my humble opinion he still usually spouts the same nonsense as the rest of the hacks, only using slightly longer words.

    But today for once he’s spouting at least a semblance of reasoned thought:

    OLIVER HOLT: Are we so desperate for football to rush back with scared players and empty stadiums that we’re happy to risk causing even more damage by alienating fans?

    -Project Restart may become Project False Start and the climb back up tougher

    -We all want football back soon so why is there a nagging voice inside our heads?

    -The problem for football is players do not exist in a vacuum and have families.

    If LS Lowry painted ‘Going to the Match’ outside one of the Premier League’s designated neutral stadiums, it would look less like the prelude to a game and more like a hazardous military expedition into no man’s land. No fans and no anticipation, except the fear of where the next bullet is coming from.

    I know we are all desperate for football to resume but are we so desperate that we turn a sport that we cherish for its escapism, its tribalism and its beauty into a giant sterile zone ringed by a cordon sanitaire where the ruling passions are fear and cynicism?

    So desperate that in our haste to rush back with scared players and empty stadiums, we risk causing even more damage by alienating fans with a spectacle that strips football of almost everything we love it for? In that scenario, Project Restart will turn into Project False Start and the long climb back to what we once knew will look even more forbidding.


    Somebody in the media talking sense. Who would of thought?

  3. The willingness of the rich, the powerful, their political asslickers, the cowardly media and the betting cabal, nay their slavering eagerness to use the public, especially the kids and their teachers as guinea pigs in some bizarre social experiment to see if we can all safely return to the way things were, is criminal. More power to Holt, who broke ranks and actually wrote something about Football that makes complete sense!

  4. Funny how Mr Attwood criticises journalists for saying ‘played out’ instead of ‘played – but he ‘filled out’ his car rather than simply filled it. Perhaps stick to the football, eh?

  5. Grammarian: As a person who has adopted the name “grammarian” you of all people should be aware that context in grammar is everything. Context, of course, includes whether a piece was written by a person who is paid to write the article, with the article then checked by proofreaders. In my case, no one pays me (I wish they would, but they don’t) to run Untold and I don’t have a proofreader to check my work (as must be self-evident in any of my pieces).

    So yes, “I filled out the car, by chance,” should have been “I filled up the car”, and I didn’t spot that.

    But I suppose what is interesting is that you feel that this is worth commenting upon in an article on the issue of whether clubs will agree to play out the season in ghost games on neutral grounds. Now why would anyone bother with correcting one word of grammar when that is the issue at hand? I suppose perhaps, either out of desperation to try and find a way to knock Untold because we are getting very close to the issue that is being studiously ignored by the mass media in the UK (the ongoing affairs in Switzerland involving the Federal Prosecutor and Fifa) or just to try and knock Untold.

    Curiously, if it is the latter, I do rather like it, because the day people stop knocking Untold is the day I’m obviously not finding stories that the media studiously ignore.
    Your attention to detail is exemplary.

  6. Funny only the teams in peril of relegation are creating a fuss, the other teams man enough to let talent do the talking rather than boardroom politics. If these cowards won’t agree to play they should forfeit the games.
    Their performances got them into the position they are i and should man up and try and get out of it.

  7. If these games go ahead would the media be attending at the stadiums? I would be really p….d off if they are. It makes me angry enough that they have free entry and being fed for free at all matches. How Referees would be selected is another question, perhaps all names in the hat would be used.

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