• Merseyside derby among ‘high risk’ ties
  • Local Police ready for Anfield victory party

Premier League Champions-in-waiting, Liverpool and Everton are set next week to oppose plans that will make them play at neutral venues when the Premier League restarts on June 17, 2020.

However, the Merseyside Police say they have no objections to matches at Anfield or Goodison Park “in relation to crime and disorder”.

Jürgen Klopp’s runaway leaders will be denied any opportunity to win the club’s first league title in 30 years at Anfield under plans outlined by Mark Roberts, the national lead for football policing and deputy chief constable of South Yorkshire Police.

Liverpool fans will not be at Anfield to celebrate a likely first league title in 30 years because Police want six “high risk” matches switched to neutral venues amid the coronavirus pandemic.

These include: Everton vs Liverpool; Manchester City vs Liverpool; Newcastle vs Liverpool; Manchester City vs Newcastle; and Manchester United vs Sheffield United – and “the game in which Liverpool could secure the league title”, according to a statement.

That could be the Merseyside derby on the weekend of June 20-21 June should Manchester City lose at home to Arsenal on the re-opening night of June 17, 2020. Other games, including several London derbies, are also being considered for neutral venues.

National police want the matches moved to reduce demands on officers during the public health crisis and to discourage fans from gathering outside stadiums.

Merseyside Police, however, have confirmed they have no problem with matches taking place in Liverpool as scheduled, although the final decision rests with the local safety advisory group.

Liverpool’s city mayor, Joe Anderson, claimed in April that the season should be cancelled and Klopp’s team awarded the title to avoid the possibility of fans celebrating outside Anfield. His comments were met with dismay by Liverpool, who said there was “a lack of evidence to support such claims”.

Their position has not changed during discussions over Project Restart and the club rejects suggestion that Liverpool fans, and football supporters in general, can not be trusted to observe lockdown rules.

There was further unease at Anfield when it emerged several of their games were being considered for neutral venues. The games identified were not proposed or discussed at Thursday’s Premier League meeting.

Both Merseyside clubs will argue their case for playing at home – only the re-arranged derby effects Everton – at a Safety Advisory Group (SAG) meeting expected next week.

SAG meetings involve the clubs, supporters groups such as the Everton Fans Forum and Spirit of Shankly, Liverpool Council, Police and other emergency services plus the Sports Ground Safety Authority.

Liverpool have been working on detailed plans to play without fans inside or outside Anfield since football stopped in mid-March.

The club accepts there are risks but believes they are manageable. For their part, Everton question the sporting integrity of playing the derby at Anfield in December but not the return fixture at Goodison.

However, should SAG refuse to issue a licence, the clubs will be prevented from hosting matches at Anfield or Goodison. Given the unprecedented situation, it is possible SAG could refuse on government advice.The Guardian


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