The Premier League will hold more informal talks with its 20 clubs today (Monday) where a decision in principle could be made on whether or not the Merseyside derby will be held at Goodison Park. The league will next meet officially this coming Thursday, when any decision will be fully confirmed.
Everton are due to host Liverpool on the first full weekend of Premier League fixtures once the season returns, most likely on Saturday June 20.
But it has been suggested the match have to be held away from Merseyside over fears that fans may congregate outside the stadium.
Mark Roberts, the deputy chief constable of the South Yorkshire police and the national lead for football policing, has argued there are several ‘high risk’ matches that should be played on neutral grounds.
Among them are derbies and several matches involving Liverpool, who are closing in on their first ever Premier League title triumph.
Concerns have been raised that due to the fact the Reds have not won the league since 1990, fans may gather in numbers outside of the stadium for the game that they are crowned champions.
That match could be at Goodison. Defeat for Manchester City on Wednesday June 17 would leave Liverpool needing three points against the Toffees to end their lengthy title wait.
But the Daily Mirror report that another virtual meeting will be held today with all 20 top-flight clubs in agreement that matches should be held on a home and away basis.
Talks are said to have been held extensively over the weekend but clubs still disagree with the view of the authorities that neutral grounds are necessary.
The bottom six clubs, who are at threat of relegation to the Championship, are all reportedly particularly eager to maintain the integrity of the competition as much as possible.
Liverpool are meanwhile said to have argued that it is unfair for their supporters to be scapegoated and that questioning the behaviour and motives of their supporters is inappropriate with a lack of evidence.
Everton have raised fears of their own relating to safety but are happy to go along with the league’s majority.
The chief constable of Merseyside, Andy Cooke, has backed Liverpool and Everton and said that the force are confident they could maintain public safety within the city.
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Cooke’s backing is a huge boost given his authority as the national police lead on crime, while assistant chief constable Rob Carden also said they have “no objections” to any Goodison or Anfield fixtures “in relation to crime and disorder”.
While Liverpool city council are also said to have expressed their belief that fans would stick to social-distancing guidelines rather than congregate in their hundreds, or thousands, outside of stadiums.
They chair the Safety Advisory Group, which provides specialist advice to local authorities to ensure events at sports grounds are well managed and more crucially, decides if games are safe to go ahead in the city.
Should derbies be held at neutral venues, then it is expected the Merseyside derby will be held in Birmingham or London.
The Mirror add that Wembley – the home of the England national team – or Aston Villa’s Villa Park are the two most likely destinations.
Discussing the return to action, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp meanwhile told the club’s official website on Sunday: “That’s what we were all waiting for. But now it’s always like this.
“You were waiting for that, somebody tells us we could start, that’s good.
“Now we know, from a training point of view, what we have to do when and when we have to be at 100 per cent in the best way, how we can train in different intensities. That was very important.
“Now, of course, it’s more and more interesting when we play where, the times are really important because we will see how we can organise the travel stuff.
“So, the situation keeps us busy, that’s absolutely OK.
“But on the pitch everything is fine, that’s really great. Around, we organise it as good as possible and use the situation.”
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