Scrapping relegation only way to get clubs on board with neutral venues

The Premier League outlined its controversial vision to resume matches at Friday’s shareholders’ meeting, but a major rift has already opened up over the idea of using only eight to 10 ­approved stadiums with no home ­advantage. Brighton and Hove Albion, Watford, West Ham United, Bournemouth, Norwich City and, to a lesser extent, Aston Villa are all understood to be opposed to the plan, sparking concern that ­“Project Restart” is already doomed. ____________________________________________________  More on coronavirus: ____________________________________________________ Discussions took place over the weekend about resuming matches, but lifting the threat of relegation, ­according to one executive, could at least convince the bottom three to fulfil their fixtures. However, this idea has not been formally discussed and may simply provoke an even greater backlash among those clubs who are not in relegation danger, as well as broadcasters, whose rebate from an unfulfilled season could reach £762 million. With Liverpool already virtually certain to win the Premier League, the effective removal of the relegation battle would also erase much of the remaining competitive drama. The Premier League has not yet decided which neutral stadiums might stage the remaining 92 games, but an analysis by The Telegraph, based on a grading system that will be used by the Police and Sports Ground Safety Authority, suggests that the venues of West Ham, Manchester City, Manchester United, Brighton, Southampton, below, Arsenal, Leicester City and Villa arecomparatively well suited. The Premier League is hoping to complete the remaining games before the end of July to minimise disruption next season, which may also have to be largely played behind closed doors. There will also be a series of other decisions, around testing protocols, social distancing, return to training and the timing of matches, that would still need to winsufficient agreement, not least from the players themselves, for Project Restart to come to fruition.