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By Simon Evans
MANCHESTER, England, June 10 (Reuters) - The Merseyside derby between Everton and Liverpool in the Premier League this month will be held behind closed-doors at Everton’s Goodison Park stadium, despite concerns the venue may attract supporters.
Media reports had suggested that the fixture on Sunday June 21 could be held at a neutral venue if authorities felt there was a risk of lockdown restrictions on public gatherings being broken.
Liverpool could win the title with a victory at Goodison Park if Manchester City lose to Arsenal on Wednesday, June 17th.
The local Ground Safety Advisory Group (GSAG) has also recommended to the city council that all remaining fixtures for both clubs to be held at their own venues.
“The decision to play the (derby) game at the Club’s home stadium was made today by the local Ground Safety Advisory Group following positive discussions between the Club, Liverpool City Council, Merseyside Police, The Everton Fans’ Forum, The Blue Union, Liverpool Football Club and Spirit of Shankly,” Everton said in a statement on their website.
Liverpool welcomed the decision and supporters organisations from both clubs, Everton’s ‘Blue Union’ and Liverpool’s ‘Spirit of Shankly’ also gave their approval.
“Building on the magnificent community work both sets of fans have done throughout this pandemic, we are confident that supporters of these two great clubs will respect safety advice about avoiding visiting stadia where home and away fixtures are taking place,” they said in a statement published on Liverpool’s website.
“We fully understand the importance of lockdown as a measure to control COVID-19 and would encourage fans to stay away from any stadium and avoid congregating in numbers,” they added.
Wendy Simon, deputy mayor of Liverpool and chair of the local GSAG, said: “We are satisfied that the considerable evidence and guidance provided (by authorities) will ensure that the outstanding fixtures for the 2019-20 Premier League season can be safely and securely played at both Goodison Park and Anfield.
“We are confident the measures in place will allow the matches to be held behind closed doors without any detrimental impact to all concerned and recommend to the city council that the safety certificates for both grounds be amended to allow this to happen.” (Reporting by Simon Evans Editing by Christian Radnedge)