MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – The chief executive of Premier League club 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 Premier League’s “Project Restart” envisages a return to play in June, once given the green light from government, with the remaining 92 matches held behind closed doors at neutral venues.
Scott Duxbury, CEO of Watford, says at least six clubs are against the plans — 14 of the 20 need to vote in favour for the proposals to be agreed.
Watford, who are 17th in the league and only above the relegation zone on goal difference, beat runway leaders Liverpool in a shock victory at their Vicarage Road ground in February — a result Duxbury says was influenced by home advantage.
“We are now told we cannot play our remaining home games at Vicarage Road and the familiarity and advantage that brings,” Duxbury wrote in The Times on Saturday.
“With all these compromises and health risks we are asked to finish a competition that bears no resemblance to the one we started, which could end a small club like Watford’s time in the Premier League,”
“So is this fair? Does it have any semblance of sporting integrity? Of course not.”
The German Bundesliga will resume play on May 16 with home and away fixtures.
“They have found a way to implement all the proposals we have been talking about in our Premier League meetings without the need to resort to neutral venues,” Duxbury added.
“Critics will say my position is founded on self-interest and they would be absolutely right. I have a duty to protect my club and the people employed by it, some of whom have worked for Watford Football Club for more than 20 years and dedicated their lives to it.
“There is no altruism in the Premier League. There are 20 different vested interests, which sometimes align but more often than not work purely to protect each individual club,” he wrote.
The Watford official said that opposition to the idea, reported to be mainly from teams facing a relegation battle, means the league should rethink.
“How can the long-term future of clubs be determined under these fundamentally changed conditions? How is there any semblance of fairness? To wave aside all the fears and concerns is too simplistic. Surely all 20 clubs must agree the fairest way forward to complete the season?,” he said.
(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond)
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