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No staying in neutral: Villa latest relegation-threatened club to go against idea of no home advantage

 

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OPPOSITION: Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow doesn’t want to have the rest of the season played at neutral venues which could cost his club £200million if they are relegated

OPPOSITION: Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow doesn’t want to have the rest of the season played at neutral venues which could cost his club £200million if they are relegated

PA

OPPOSITION: Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow doesn’t want to have the rest of the season played at neutral venues which could cost his club £200million if they are relegated

Aston Villa have joined Brighton and West Ham in publicly opposing the idea of completing the Premier League season at neutral venues as chief executive Christian Purslow warned clubs would not support measures that increased the risk of the "£200million catastrophe" that is relegation.

It is understood that Premier League clubs have been told the only way to complete the season is for the remaining 92 matches to be played at neutral venues, but Purslow said that would punish clubs like Villa.

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

Advantage

"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."

Villa, having played a game fewer than those around them, sit in the relegation zone as things stand, two points behind West Ham who are outside the bottom three on goal difference, with Brighton a further two points better off in 15th place.

Purslow said discussions around Project Restart are hugely complicated, likening them to the Brexit debate, because though 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.

And he said that while the day-to-day financial losses due to the shutdown were greater at the top end of the table, for those near the bottom the implications were far greater.

"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 £200m?'"

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.

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WHAT THE PREMIER LEAGUE WILL LOOK LIKE: General view of the dummies replacing fans before a baseball game at Munhak Baseball Stadium in Incheon, South Korea as the local league gets under way again

WHAT THE PREMIER LEAGUE WILL LOOK LIKE: General view of the dummies replacing fans before a baseball game at Munhak Baseball Stadium in Incheon, South Korea as the local league gets under way again

REUTERS

WHAT THE PREMIER LEAGUE WILL LOOK LIKE: General view of the dummies replacing fans before a baseball game at Munhak Baseball Stadium in Incheon, South Korea as the local league gets under way again

Responded

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."

League Managers Association chief executive Richard Bevan warned the season could be cancelled if clubs did not agree to playing at neutral venues.

"The government, if they haven't already, will be making it clear that home matches with densely populated stadia really puts into question whether social-distancing rules can be adhered to and without doubt that will be on the voting next Monday with the clubs," he said.