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Firm stance: Pascal Gross of Brighton is challenged by Aston Villa ace Kortney
Hause. Both clubs are against playing at neutral venues

Firm stance: Pascal Gross of Brighton is challenged by Aston Villa ace Kortney Hause. Both clubs are against playing at neutral venues

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Firm stance: Pascal Gross of Brighton is challenged by Aston Villa ace Kortney Hause. Both clubs are against playing at neutral venues

Football leaders, police and government have held further talks to explore "a range of options" to restart the season amid the coronavirus pandemic, which could reopen the possibility of the Premier League campaign being completed on a home-and-away basis.

A number of clubs have signalled their opposition to the idea of playing out the season at neutral venues, arguing that it has too much of an impact on the integrity of the competition.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said there was "ongoing dialogue" on the subject and now the UK's national football policing lead, Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts of South Yorkshire Police, said "positive" discussions had been held yesterday evening.

DCC Roberts said in a statement: "Following a positive meeting between police, government and football last night, we will be jointly exploring a range of options to identify a way forward, which minimises any risks to public safety and unnecessary pressure on public services, but facilitates a sensible restart to the season, to support the economic and morale benefits associated with the sport."

It is understood clubs were told at the league's shareholders' meeting on May 1 that the only way to restart the season in a way which satisfied the government and the police was to play at up to 10 neutral venues.

Clubs such as Brighton, Aston Villa and Watford had come out against it, but DCC Roberts has previously warned that playing the remainder of the season in the Premier League and the EFL entirely on a home-and-away basis would "present challenges" to the emergency services.

He later called on those questioning how fair it was to "get a grip" amid a pandemic where thousands of lives have been lost. He says any return must be done in the safest way possible.

But yesterday's news of ongoing conversations indicates no final decision has been reached.

The government's Covid-19 recovery strategy, published on Monday, states that sports events behind closed doors could return in England as early as June 1, but that "large-scale social contact" was to be avoided. Masters said opposition to the neutral venues idea was not only concentrated on clubs in the bottom six, who stand to lose the most from the season restarting on that basis. He said clubs wanted the existing relationship between them and their supporters to be taken into account.

"I think some of our clubs would argue that in relation to policing their own fans that they have a good relationship with them, and that they encourage their own fans not to turn up outside their home venues while they're playing behind closed doors, and they're in a better position to control that, but it's not a matter of convincing, this has to be a decision that's come to mutually," said Masters.

The Professional Footballers' Association, meanwhile, have sent an eight-page document to Premier League clubs advising them on health issues.

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor says 'Project Restart' could be achievable if players are open-minded.

He said: "With the type of guarantees or assurances that would give confidence to the players, then (returning is) achievable. We have to be open-minded. There's a balance between what you hope can be done and what is realistic."

Belfast Telegraph