MANCHESTER, England, May 11 (Reuters) - Premier League clubs are meeting on Monday to discuss their plans to restart the current season, after the stoppage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as they await detailed policy instructions from the UK government.
A series of meetings are scheduled for this week, including with the government, who are expected on Tuesday to publish a paper on plans and guidelines for elite sport.
No vote on the proposal for games to be held at neutral grounds is expected but consultations will go on throughout the coming days with players and managers as well as government officials and medical experts.
The Premier League is hoping to get the green light for a restart to the 2019-20 season in June but has to give European governing body UEFA details of their plans by May 25.
The clubs may, however, take a decision on Monday over the issue of player contracts, which could be a complicating factor given some players, reported to be around 160, are due to run out of contract at the end of June.
Any restart to the campaign would see matches played beyond the June 30 date, which is normally considered the formal end of the season.
FIFA has produced guidelines suggesting that contracts be extended until the end of the lengthened season but clubs are concerned about the legal situation if players refuse.
On the broader issue of ‘Project Restart’, the meeting is likely to address concerns from some of the clubs facing the threat of relegation about the fairness of playing games at neutral venues.
Relegation carries significant financial impact for clubs and some have called for no teams to be demoted this season.
The chief executive of 17th-placed Watford has said that plans to resume the season at neutral venues are unfair and that there could be enough clubs in opposition to stop the idea.
The idea of using a select number of neutral grounds is to ensure only those venues that are deemed to have the best ability to create a secure and safe environment host the remaining games.
Authorities believe that playing at neutral grounds will reduce the risk of fans gathering outside and putting pressure on security staff.
Brighton & Hove Albion’s chief executive Paul Barber, whose club are 15th and says relegation would cost them around 200 million pounds ($246.32 million), has also expressed opposition to using neutral grounds.
“If we end up finishing the season by playing out our remaining games home and away, and we still get relegated, then we’ll be relegated on a sporting basis which is entirely fair. We have to accept that and we would accept that,” he said.
“What we wouldn’t accept is being relegated with the competition changing three quarters of the way through and I think that would be same for any club in our position.”
For a vote to pass, at least 14 of the 20 Premier League clubs most support a motion, if there are no abstentions. ($1 = 0.8120 pounds) (Reporting by Simon Evans Editing by Christian Radnedge)