Premier League clubs fear becoming scapegoats amid fan concerns

Premier League clubs are concerned about supporters gathering outside stadiums if the season resumes and fear football will be blamed if breaches of physical distancing guidelines result in a rise in coronavirus cases. Although the government this week declared its desire to see football back “as soon as possible”, it is understood a range of potential complications will be raised when top-flight clubs hold a pivotal meeting on Friday to discuss how to complete the season. Several clubs are worried about the public gathering outside stadiums where games are taking place behind closed doors, and there are reservations about how to solve contract issues involving players, the capacity for testing, and whether playing in neutral venues would be an artificial construct. Yet with some clubs questioning whether the government is trying to use football as a distraction amid criticism of its Covid-19 strategy and tensions overthe lockdown, there is a growing feeling that the Premier League’s return could have unwanted consequences. Several clubs fear the prospect of mass gatherings outside stadiums, or supporters meeting in homes to watch games, and there are concerns that even playing at neutral venues may not dissuade fans from travelling. Worries also surround supporters moving into public spaces to celebrate major victories, and one club questioned whether it would be possible to stop peopleplaying football in parks if the professional game is back on television screens. There is no desire to return before it is safe and although Premier League sides are watching with interest as the Bundesliga prepares to resume on 9 May, they know there is more capacity for testing in Germany than in the United Kingdom. (Pictured) Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement, while flanked by windows showing children's drawings of rainbows supporting the NHS, on his first day back at work in Downing Street after recovering from a bout of coronavirus (COVID-19) that put him in intensive care, in London, England on April 27. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) warned the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic could see the U.K. economy shrink by a record 35 percent by June.  A man wears a religious placard on Market Street in Manchester, England on March 25.  Workers sell food and household items to local residents from their ice cream van at a supported housing estate in west Belfast, Northern Ireland on April 1. Soldiers and private contractors help to prepare the ExCel centre in London, which is being made into the temporary NHS Nightingale hospital comprising two wards, each of 2,000 people, to help tackle coronavirus, on March 30.  Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives a press conference on the ongoing situation with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic with chief medical officer Chris Whitty (L) and Chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance (R) in Downing Street after he had taken part in the government's emergency Cobra meeting in London, England on March 16.