Reports claim Premier League clubs arguing over relegation aspects of Project Restart

PUBLISHED: 12:44 04 May 2020 | UPDATED: 15:52 04 May 2020

It's unclear if or when the Premier League season will be resumed during the coronavirus pandemic Picture: Matthew Vincent/PA Wire

It's unclear if or when the Premier League season will be resumed during the coronavirus pandemic Picture: Matthew Vincent/PA Wire

PA Wire/PA Images

Premier League clubs are reportedly at odds about concluding the suspended season, with a controversial claim that the bottom six clubs - including Norwich City - are trying to prevent Project Restart to avoid relegation.

The Daily Mail stoked the flames over the weekend with the report claiming Premier League bosses will issue a “desperate plea for unity” due to fears from some clubs that the bottom six are planning to resist plans to resume the suspended campaign.

Bottom side City are joined in the bottom three by Aston Villa and Bournemouth as things stand, six points from safety, with Villa having a game in hand in a tight battle for survival.

Watford and West Ham are only above the relegation zone on goal difference and Brighton are just two points clear, followed by a five-point gap to Southampton in 14th.

Meanwhile, BBC Sport added their angle to the huge amount of speculation surrounding Project Restart in the media, with a report which claimed more of the top flight’s clubs would be open to playing at neutral venues if the season can be concluded behind closed doors - if relegation is cancelled.

The reports follow the latest video conference of senior staff of the 20 Premier League clubs on Friday, when a limited statement followed, reaffirming that “the clubs reconfirmed their commitment to finishing the 2019/20 season” while stressing that health and safety remains the priority as negotiations with government officials continue about whether a safe restart is possible.

MORE: Canaries Trust warns Premier League early restart would be ‘potentially dangerous’

Details of Project Restart leaked in national newspapers last week, with the reported intention of concluding the outstanding 92 Premier League matches and seven FA Cup ties between June 8 and July 27 - with the Canaries due to play a home FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United.

It is widely accepted that any restart within the next few months will be with games being played behind closed doors, posing questions about the legitimacy of a fair competition, although that is yet to be officially confirmed.

Norwich, for example, have nine league games to play but five are at home - four of which are against teams in the bottom half, with the other being against 10th placed Burnley.

In comparison, survival rivals Brighton also have five home games but four are against teams in the top half of the table, including the top two Liverpool and Manchester City.

MORE: The plan to get Norwich City’s Premier League season up and running

The Mail’s report exposes the complexities of Project Restart however, when clubs will of course have their own best interests at heart. It goes on to state that the ‘big six’ clubs aim to persuade the lower clubs that concluding the season will be their best hope of avoiding relegation.

That is not clear though, as the ramifications of the season not being finished are unknown. Theories such as points-per-game averages being used to work out finishing positions or just finishing the season as things stand have been widely suggested, but it’s unclear whether clubs would be able to challenge such outcomes legally.

An unnamed Premier League executive is quoted as saying: “They are threatening to destroy football just to avoid the risk of relegation. Their thinking is so short-sighted.”

The report states that 14 clubs need to vote in favour of Project Restart but that Friday’s meeting received 13 supportive votes, six against and one abstention.

The article even goes as far as to claim that some clubs are concerned that some rivals are “using their medical staff to stoke fear among players about the health risks of returning to action” amid the squabbles.

MORE: City chief will not consider restart until players feel comfortable

Norwich City’s executive committee revealed last month that they are planning for a potential loss of between £18million and £35m, which budgets for games being played behind closed doors and for the potential loss in broadcast revenue if the season cannot be concluded, with Premier League clubs potentially owing over £750m collectively in rebates to broadcasters if this season’s games are not played.

MORE: Potential loss of up to £35m forces Canaries to play it safe

The next video conference of senior staff from the 20 Premier League clubs and the league’s top brass is likely to follow the government’s briefing later in the week, which is expected to detail how the societal lockdown and social distancing measures could start to ease in the coming months - amid the global health crisis, which has claimed over 28,000 lives so far in the UK this year.

The next Premier League meeting is expected to be held on Friday, with a government briefing expected later in the week on plans for easing lockdown and details about how society can start moving back towards normality in the following months.

The season was suspended on Friday, March 13, with the Canaries’ last game being a 1-0 league defeat at Sheffield United on Saturday, March 7.

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