Legal actions feared as PL clubs are divided over games at neutral venues

Crystal Palace chairman on Sunday urged Premier League clubs opposing the resumption of the 2019/20 season in empty neutral stadiums to accept the plan or the game will be in danger of not making a full recovery.

According to Steven Parish, there could be years of legal challenges if the Premier League season is not completed, pointing out how French clubs are already exploring claims of damages after the abrupt end of the Ligue 1 season last week.

Parish showed support for the league’s Project Restart proposal after the likes of West Ham and Brighton openly resisted the idea of playing their remaining home games at a neutral venue as they battle against relegation.

The Premier League is adopting measures alongside with the help of authorities to ensure that players resume group training and start playing games by June at the earliest with emphasis on preventing the spread of COVID-19 infections.

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In a tweet, Parish said: “We need to try to play if we can make it safe,”

“I believe we can and should continue however imperfect the other elements: neutral venues empty stadia, etc. If we can’t make it work then I fear for next season. The game might never fully recover.”

It could be recalled that government decisions in France and the Netherlands resulted in the termination of the Ligue 1 and Eredivisie seasons this term.

Paris Saint-Germain were awarded the Ligue 1 title with 10 games left to play while Ajax who led the Eredivisie on goal difference will not be awarded the title.

Although Crystal Palace sit in the middle of the log and have little to play for, Parish said he wanted the season to be completed to maintain sporting integrity and protect the league’s finances.

“I want to crown Liverpool champions and give every other club a fair crack at the best league position they can achieve,” Parish said.

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“I certainly don’t want to have difficult conversations about curtailing, voiding and points per game.

“The ramifications of each are complex and could involve legal challenges that run on for months, if not years. But, yes, it is partly about the money. And we should all care about the money.”

It is believed that the Premier League will lose more than one billion pounds if the season is not completed as broadcasting commitments won’t be met.

Regardless, the league has not made any comments regarding the opposition of some clubs against playing games in neutral stadiums. They only noted that completion of the season was necessary if the environment is safe.

“Ending the season early would undoubtedly leave the Premier League more exposed to costly and reputationally damaging legal action from certain disgruntled clubs, unhappy with the difficult decisions that would ultimately follow in determining league positions,” lawyer Simon Leaf, head of sport at Mishcon de Reya, told The Associated Press.

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“After all, a significant portion of the revenues that the clubs receive from broadcasters and sponsors is related to where the club finishes in the table.”

“We could still see players themselves take their own legal stand by refusing to take the field for fear of their own safety and clubs unhappy with the venue allocations threaten action,” Leaf said.

The Premier League has been on hold for close to two months and it must be noted that its rule book does not have any guidelines for the resolution of standings if a team cannot play all 38 games.

“The league will need to continue to manage the situation delicately in order to keep all sides on board and avoid league places and revenues being determined in the courtroom rather than on the pitch,” Leaf said.