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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers News » EFL and Premier League asked to review non-essential games by top officer

EFL and Premier League asked to review non-essential games by top officer

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
The national policing lead has suggested examining which games “absolutely need to be played” among the 91 remaining in the and 341 in the EFL.

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, has said playing all the remaining fixtures will “present challenges” to the emergency services.

Speaking to the PA news agency, DCC Roberts flagged up the possibility that crowds could gather around prestige games where titles or promotion are on the line.

That could mean the likes of Liverpool or Leeds United being asked to play for the Premier League title or promotion to the top flight away from Anfield or Elland Road, if the pivotal match was due to be at home.

Wanderers have examined how they can play games at the University of Bolton Stadium and predict they will require fewer than 100 individuals inside the building.

They have 10 games remaining, five of which are at home, and still have to play three of the current top six - Rotherham, Peterborough and Oxford.

DCC Roberts admits there are logistical and practical issues in playing games en masse and has urged the authorities to take a closer look at what can be done to minimise the strain on police.

“We’ve done the work assessing the remaining fixtures - I think it’s 92 to finish the Premier League season and 341 in the Football League, seven to complete the FA Cup,” he said.

“Playing all those fixtures would present challenges, that’s an awful lot of people moving around the country, and certainly if they were all played at the originally planned stadiums then I think that does present some challenges.

“I think we all need to look at options about what games absolutely need to be played.

“Let’s look at how they can be managed, potentially at their own stadiums but equally if we can see benefits of playing at a neutral, controlled venue, both from the health aspects of it but also minimising any disruption to the police, the ambulance service and all those other functions that are going to be stretched as we go back to normality and people start going about their normal business again.

“There’s common sense and I think any group of football fans can probably highlight now the fixtures that are probably likely to generate attention.

“One of the things that the Premier League and the Football League are acutely aware of is that clubs would have to get the message out that if matches are taking place they need the continued buy-in of supporters and the public.

“There might be a fair deal that if people start gathering and causing public health or public order issues then that might mean that games can’t actually go on.”

The Premier League is understood to have told its clubs that only approved venues can be used - operating to a higher certification than in normal circumstances.

Further detail on this is due to be presented to the clubs at their next regular shareholders’ meeting on Friday but it increases the possibility of some matches being played at neutral venues, which will lead to questions from clubs about integrity.

“It’s not a case of us imposing anything on (the football authorities) or telling them (what to do),” Roberts added.

“I think it’s a case of, in the first instance, football satisfying the Government that they can hold the matches and that it’s safe for everyone to do it in terms of players, officials, coaching staff, broadcasters.

“So you get that first stage of ‘how do you make it safe to play football at the location?’ and it may be that actually that mandates them being played at specific neutral venues where it can be controlled. So I think the health aspect of it might dictate the security aspect of it.”

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden says the Premier League is giving consideration to how it can best make matches available to view without supporters being able to attend.

Concerns have been raised by Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee chair Julian Knight that if matches are only available via subscription it may encourage people to go to a friend’s house to watch.

Roberts said: “One of the biggest considerations has got to be where we are with the lockdown, because of course it does evolve.

“But a concern might be that if things are screened and it’s behind closed doors is it going to encourage people to come together either in small or larger venues?

“That’s primarily a health concern but you wouldn’t want to see the police being called to manage people going somewhere to watch a match.”


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