City’s rivals join opposition to neutral venues due to risk of ‘£200m catastrophe’

Aston Villa's chief executive Christian Purslow Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

Aston Villa's chief executive Christian Purslow Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Norwich City’s survival rivals Aston Villa have joined Brighton and West Ham in publicly opposing the idea of completing the Premier League season at neutral venues.

Villa’s as chief executive Christian Purslow has warned clubs would not support measures that increased the risk of the “£200million catastrophe” that is relegation.

Top-flight clubs have reportedly been told the only way to complete the season is for the remaining 92 matches to be played behind closed doors and at neutral venues, but Purslow said that would punish clubs like Villa.

Dean Smith’s team sit 19th having lost their last four games, four points clear of bottom club Norwich but just two adrift of Bournemouth, Watford and West Ham - with a game in hand, at home to high-flying Sheffield United, and the League Cup final also awaiting.

“Personally I’m against it,” Purslow said on Talk Sport. “We’re a club that prides itself on home form. Two-thirds of our wins this season have come at home.

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“We’ve got six home games left to play and I think any Villa fan would agree that giving up that advantage is a massive decision for somebody running Aston Villa and I certainly wouldn’t agree to that unless those circumstances are right.”

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Purslow said discussions around Project Restart are hugely complicated because although there is consensus that football should resume as soon as it is safe to do so, there is no clear answer on how to do it.

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“At the bottom end of the table there’s a much smaller revenue base, but the risk of relegation is probably a £200million catastrophe for any club that mathematically could still go down,” he said.

“When you say to any club ‘we want you to agree to a bunch of rule changes that may make it more likely that you get relegated’ they’re not thinking about TV money, they’re thinking, ‘my goodness, am I going to agree to something that results in me being relegated and losing £200million?”’

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Purslow’s warning about relegation came a day after EFL chairman Rick Parry said things would get “very messy” if the Premier League tried to block promotion from the Championship this season.

But Purslow responded with a damning verdict on the finances of the Football League, saying the Premier League needed to be protected first and foremost as the money it generates is vital for the entire pyramid.

“The EFL has grave financial problems and those problems predate Covid-19,” he said. “I think what Covid has done is expose the fact the league is unsustainable at every level.

“One of the reasons I feel very strongly that we need to complete the season and protect TV revenue is that the Premier League really is the driver of revenue that filters throughout English football.”

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