Police want Liverpool title decider in neutral stadium

Trent Alexander-Arnold and Chelsea’s Mason Mount during an English Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, London. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 30 May 2020

Police want Liverpool title decider in neutral stadium

  • The move aims to prevent fans from gathering outside when the competition resumes

MANCHESTER, England: Liverpool might not win the English Premier League at Anfield after police included the leader’s key games among at least five it wants at neutral venues in a bid to prevent fans from gathering outside when the competition resumes.
Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp hopes authorities will allow them to play at home as planned, with supporters adhering to advice while they are prevented from attending games due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Police originally wanted neutral venues for all 92 remaining games but the plan was opposed by the clubs — particularly those trying to avoid relegation.
The league plans to resume on June 17 after a 100-day shutdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic, pending final approval from government, which is trying to prevent a second spike in cases.
Police don’t object to the games on that Wednesday night being played at Manchester City and Aston Villa.
But police want the derby between Everton and Liverpool to be played away from Merseyside a few days later. The game was originally scheduled at Goodison Park. Liverpool, which leads by 25 points with nine games remaining, could clinch the title by beating Everton if second-placed City loses to Arsenal on June 17.
If the 30-year title drought doesn’t end that day, police want Liverpool’s next game, against Crystal Palace, to be played away from Anfield.
Greater Manchester Police have already determined Liverpool’s third game back against Manchester City should be staged away from Etihad Stadium.
Liverpool’s fourth game back is against Aston Villa, currently scheduled at Anfield.
The same Manchester force wants City’s game against Newcastle and Manchester United’s home game against Sheffield United played outside of the northwest location.
Police in Newcastle also don’t want the home game against Liverpool to be played at St. James’ Park on the final day of the season, which could be July 26.
Mark Roberts, the head of football policing in England, said the plans will remain under review but are based on public health demands.
“We have reached a consensus that balances the needs of football, while also minimizing the demand on policing,” said Roberts, the football policing lead at the National Police Chiefs’ Council. “The views and agreement of forces which host Premier League clubs have been sought and where there were concerns, the Premier League has been supportive in providing flexibility in arranging alternative venues where requested.”
One obvious neutral venue is Wembley Stadium in north London which is not the home of any club side.
“This plan will be kept continually under review to ensure public health and safety and a key part of this is for supporters to continue to respect the social distancing guidelines, and not to attend or gather outside the stadiums,” Roberts said.
Even without a vaccine for COVID-19, fans could return to games next season, which is due to begin in September.
“There is optimism at the Premier League and at clubs that we will see fans back in the stadiums next season,” Premier League chief executive Richard Masters told Sky Sports TV, “and it may happen on a phased basis.”
Only 200 of the 380 Premier League games each season are contracted to be broadcast live in Britain, but all remaining fixtures will be aired live because fans will not be allowed in stadiums.
The reshaped English season is set to end with the FA Cup final on Aug. 1.
The Football Association on Friday announced its competition will provisionally resume with the quarterfinals on the weekend of June 27-28. The semifinals are now scheduled for July 18-19.
“This has been a difficult period for many people and, while this is a positive step, the restart date is dependent on all safety measures being met,” FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said.
Though the COVID-19 deaths per day have fallen in Britain since early April, another 377 were still reported on Thursday, bringing the known death toll in all settings including hospitals and care homes to 37,837.


Pakistan’s Hafeez in isolation for breaking distancing rules

Updated 38 min 19 sec ago

Pakistan’s Hafeez in isolation for breaking distancing rules

  • Hafeez posed for a photograph with an elderly golfer
  • Pakistan Cricket Board said it has tested Hafeez for Covid-19 and will allow him to rejoin the group if he is negative

LONDON: Pakistan all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez has been placed in isolation on the eve of the second test against England after breaching social distancing guidelines by posing for a photograph with an elderly golfer.
Hafeez smiled for a photo with a woman who he identified as “90+ and living her life healthy” after the pair met during a round at the golf course which adjoins the Ageas Bowl — site of this week’s test match.

Hafeez is not part of the red-ball squad, and has instead traveled as part of the limited-overs group playing matches later this month, but his actions still represent a breach of strict rules governing the “bio-secure bubble.”
The Pakistan Cricket Board issued a statement saying it has tested Hafeez for Covid-19 and will allow him to rejoin the group if he is negative.
The PCB said “the decision to put Hafeez in isolation has been taken for his and, the safety and security of everyone around him. The team management believes it was an inadvertent mistake, but a good reminder for everyone on the importance of following the bio-secure protocols, which have been designed for the health and safety of everyone involved in the series.”