A senior police figure has advocated the use of neutral venues to complete the remainder of the English football season, believing that the staging of fixtures at clubs’ own grounds could present challenges in terms of policing – a viewpoint which could increase the possibility of Liverpool not lifting the Premier League trophy at Anfield.
With Jurgen Klopp’s team currently 25 points clear at the top of the table and the Premier League and UK government keen on resuming the season when the coronavirus threat diminishes, the Reds will probably get the chance to end their 30-year wait for league glory this summer.
However, as reported by Sky Sports, any resumption to the season would probably be behind closed doors, and Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts told the Daily Mail that the staging of football matches across the country could “present some challenges” in terms of policing should some supporters congregate outside stadia.
He said: “We’ve done the work assessing the remaining fixtures – I think it’s 92 to finish the Premier League season and 341 in the Football League, seven to complete the FA Cup.
“Playing all those fixtures would present challenges, that’s an awful lot of people moving around the country, and certainly if they were all played at the originally planned stadiums then I think that does present some challenges. I think we all need to look at options about what games absolutely need to be played.
“Let’s look at how they can be managed, potentially at their own stadiums but equally if we can see benefits of playing at a neutral, controlled venue, both from the health aspects of it but also minimising any disruption to the police, the ambulance service and all those other functions that are going to be stretched as we go back to normality and people start going about their normal business again.”
He added: “You get that first stage of ‘how do you make it safe to play football at the location?’ and it may be that actually that mandates them being played at specific neutral venues where it can be controlled.”
If Liverpool go on to clinch the Premier League title but no supporters are present to savour the occasion or see Jordan Henderson hold the trophy aloft in front of his delirious team-mates, there would almost certainly be an anti-climactic feel to what should be a joyous, unforgettable communal moment. Even if the players display unbridled glee in their title celebrations, the lack of accompaniment from thousands of jubilant Reds supporters would surely leave a sense that something is missing, that the moment seems diluted somehow.
However, given the extraordinary circumstances of COVID-19, Roberts is sensibly prioritising human safety over all other factors. This is a pandemic which, as of 8am this morning, has killed more than 22,000 people in the UK (as per Financial Times), so no matter how special a moment winning the Premier League would be for Liverpool, it would be irresponsible of Reds supporters to congregate outside Anfield in a mass celebratory gathering.
Also, after 30 years of waiting for a league title and given the delays to the football season owing to coronavirus, the chances are that many Liverpool fans would gladly just see their team winning the league any way, any how this summer – particularly in the face of numerous public figures and thousands of football fans calling for the season to be voided and for the Reds to be thwarted in their title pursuit.
If that title-winning moment comes in a few weeks’ time, it may not transpire in the way that many Kopites might have envisaged over the past number of months. However, even if the league has to be won in a neutral venue with no fans present, people’s health and safety ultimately needs to be the overriding priority.
Liverpool fans, what did you make of Roberts’ advice about the resumption of the Premier League season at neutral venues? Comment below with your views!