Premier League does not yet have ‘green light’, warns minister

LONDON (AFP) – Britain’s Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden warned yesterday that the Premier League does not yet have the “green light” to resume but restated the government’s hope that the season can be completed.

Premier League clubs are due to meet on Monday to discuss the latest plans for ‘Project Restart’ – a day after an expected minor easing of coronavirus lockdown measures.

Clubs are understood to have been told that the use of a limited number of neutral venues is the only way to complete the campaign, to limit the strain on essential services and discourage gatherings of supporters near stadiums.

But those at risk of relegation argue that the integrity of the competition would be compromised by the neutral-venue plan.

Brighton Chief Executive Paul Barber is opposed to the idea, with the Seagulls hovering two points above the drop zone. Brighton were scheduled to play five of their remaining nine games at home.

Despite extensive contingency planning, Britain’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden warned the Premier League was yet to get the go-ahead, with testing and player welfare major hurdles.

“They’ve not been given the green light,” Dowden told BBC Radio yesterday.

“If we can get a plan that works then I’d like us to be able to go ahead with it because I think it would be good for the nation, it would be good for football as a whole.

“I’m really hopeful we can get this up and running but public safety must come first so it’s only if we’re confident of that, we’ll be able to proceed.”

The Bundesliga announced that it would resume matches on May 16, behind closed doors and subject to extensive coronavirus testing.

Dowden’s comments came as The Times newspaper reported that Football Association chiefs would block any attempt to declare the Premier League season null and void and abandon relegation.