The Premier League’s bottom three have been warned that relegation could be imposed on them if they continue to obstruct plans to resume the season.
LONDON – The Premier League’s bottom three have been warned that relegation could be imposed on them if they continue to obstruct plans to resume the season next month at neutral venues.
Norwich, Aston Villa and Bournemouth are under threat, with the clubs most eager to return to action set to demand a ballot to determine the relegation issue if there is not unanimous support for Project Restart at a shareholders’ meeting on Monday. The implicit threat is that the majority will vote to send down the bottom three.
In a further sign of the in-fighting within the top flight, Norwich, Villa and Bournemouth have been warned that their best chance of staying up is to vote to restart the season and win games to get out of trouble.
The vote could take place as early as next week if the Government endorse the Premier League’s plans.
The current bottom three had not been the most vocal in raising objections to Project Restart, with Brighton, West Ham and Watford leading the rebels as they have most to lose from a resumption, given they are just above the relegation zone. But Villa chief executive Christian Purslow yesterday joined Brighton’s Paul Barber in outlining his opposition to the remaining matches being played at neutral venues, which is the Premier League’s proposal based on advice from the Government and police.
“Personally I am against it,” Purslow said. “We are a club that prides itself on home form. Two-thirds of our wins this season came at home. We have six left. Giving up that advantage is a massive decision and I wouldn’t agree to it unless the circumstances are right. My duty is to my club.”
The Premier League require 14 clubs to vote in favour to pass a motion. The support of the bottom three would probably be enough to swing the balance in favour of Project Restart, and the struggling clubs may conclude it is their best option, given the looming threat of automatic relegation.
The idea of scrapping relegation if the season is completed on neutral grounds was raised at last Friday’s meeting, but quickly dismissed.
A further vote could be held on establishing the mechanism for deciding relegation, whether it be on current league positions or points per game, but that will not be necessary if no more matches are played as Norwich, Villa and Bournemouth would make up the bottom three in both tables.
The Premier League are reluctant to take such decisions until they have given up hope of the season being completed, but a number of clubs appear prepared to use relegation as a threat.
The level of acrimony among some clubs increased further yesterday after details of an e-mail sent to the Premier League’s medical adviser Mark Gillett and director of football Richard Garlick were published by The Athletic, leading to allegations of dirty tricks.
The e-mail was sent by Crystal Palace’s head of sports medicine, Dr Zafar Iqbal, in his capacity as chair of the Premier League Doctors’ Group, after he was asked to collate queries from club doctors about return-to-training protocols.
It is understood that while Dr Iqbal copied in the medical directors of all the clubs into the e-mail only four clubs had contributed to its content, all of them in the bottom six.
Other clubs are adamant that the concerns addressed, which included a question about who would take responsibility in the event of a Covid-19 related death, are not representative of the entire league, leading to angry claims that a serious medical process is being used as ammunition in the ongoing PR war over Project Restart.
Premier League chiefs fear that a split vote next week could leave them open to public criticism, especially if a player tests positive for coronavirus at a club who voted against the restart and they are lobbying the rebels in hope of securing a unanimous vote to avoid that.