The plan to restart the Premier League season may have received a blow after comments from Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins and Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham.
The current campaign has been tipped to resume next month, with June 12 being touted as a possible return date as clubs return to training in the coming weeks.
It comes after a two-month lockdown in the UK due to the coronavirus pandemic, and while plans have been outlined for measures to be relaxed albeit with guidelines still in place to avoid a second spike, there has been much debate over the football season getting back underway.
One of the key points has been whether or not games will be allowed to be played at their usual venues in terms of home and away games for the respective Premier League clubs, or if they would have to be played at neutral stadiums to avoid fans gathering outside.
Naturally, certain clubs will be desperate to have that advantage of playing at home regardless of having to play behind closed doors for the foreseeable future, but Hopkins and Burnham have seemingly now raised doubts over that happening in Manchester.
“What we’re fearful of is that people will turn up, either at neutral or home grounds, which would be problematic,” Hopkins is quoted as saying by the Sun. “I have no doubt the 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.”
After London Mayor Sadiq Khan expressed his own concerns this week over a premature restart to fixtures in the capital, Burnham has seemingly echoed those sentiments and backed Hopkins.
“You have to take on board the concerns of the players. Restarting football should not be dictated by TV or by money. The chief’s own comments would argue against any restart,” he said.
“People will have been struck by Raheem Sterling in the last 24 hours, saying he doesn’t feel particularly safe, having lost people who are particularly close to him.
“Pep Guardiola lost his mum. You have to take on board the concerns of the players. Their views should be taken as priority when it comes to any restart.”
It’s widely acknowledged that Premier League chiefs need the backing and support of the respective police forces and authorities to move forward with plans to host fixtures, whether that’s in direct conjunction or with alternative plans and more funding put in place to cater for the potential of fans turning up at stadiums.
In turn, this perhaps doesn’t paint a particular positive picture for now as it had been reported by the Daily Mail earlier in the week that matches were set to get the green light to be played at usual stadiums if certain criteria was met, with the Government expected to make their final decision based on advice from the 13 police authorities in the country.