Watford slam Premier League’s ‘distorted’ neutral venue plan

LONDON (AFP) – Watford have become the latest English top-flight club to hit out at proposals by the Premier League to end the season at neutral venues, with Chairman Scott Duxbury worried about the impact of a “distorted nine-game mini-league”.

Clubs are due to meet tomorrow to consider the Premier League’s controversial ‘Project Restart’ plan, which seeks to play the season to a finish following its suspension because of the coronavirus pandemic, with Watford joining fellow relegation candidates Brighton and Aston Villa in voicing their opposition.

Duxbury, while accepting fans cannot attend because of COVID-19, is unhappy with a proposal that would see 17th-place Watford denied the “familiarity and advantage” of playing at Vicarage Road.

“There is no altruism in the Premier League,” Duxbury wrote in yesterday’s edition of The Times.

“There are 20 different vested interests, which sometimes align but more often than not work purely to protect each club. That is why some clubs are happy to sign up to ‘Project Restart’ because arguably there is only an upside in participating in this compromised format; it means (leaders) Liverpool can win the title, other clubs can book their place in Europe next season.”

“But when at least six clubs – and I suspect more – are concerned about the clear downside and the devastating effects of playing in this kind of distorted nine-game mini-league, then I believe the Premier League has a duty of care to address those concerns.”

Duxbury said it was wrong to switch to neutral venues three-quarters of the way through a season.

“How can the long-term future of clubs be determined under these fundamentally changed conditions? How is there any semblance of fairness? To wave aside all the fears and concerns is too simplistic.

“Surely all 20 clubs must agree the fairest way forward to complete the season?”