| 10.5°C Dublin

Rebel clubs are told to fall into line or next season is put under threat


Opposition: Brighton CEO Paul Barber

Opposition: Brighton CEO Paul Barber


Opposition: Brighton CEO Paul Barber

Premier League rebel clubs will be told failure to complete this campaign will put next season under threat and will have catastrophic consequences for the football industry.

The bottom six, who oppose playing at neutral venues, will be given the stark warning by other chairmen when they meet on Monday.

They will be told the conditions of Project Restart will be the same as the start of the 2020/21 campaign later this year. There are fears television money bankrolling clubs will be in jeopardy if that is delayed.

Steve Parish, the Crystal Palace chairman, suggested there will be a "distortion of the competition" next season when he spoke earlier this week, with the issue now discussed among his counterparts in the Premier League.

Not putting matches on now means there is little chance of staging them in August. The result would be ruinous if there is no product for broadcasters to buy. The situation has been compared to coming off for bad light in cricket, where there can be no play until conditions improve.

The rebel clubs will be told the outcome of blocking the season being completed will be far worse than the losses of dropping into the Championship, where relegated teams receive parachute payments to adjust to lower revenues.

Monday's meeting, the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson reviews lockdown guidelines, is seen as vital to the future of the game and avoiding becoming like the devastated aviation industry beyond August, which was the comparison made by Parish.

Voiding relegation has also been discussed by clubs, which would mean next season having extra teams in the Premier League, promoted from the Championship. However, that idea looks doomed, even if it would appeal to clubs fighting to stay out of the bottom three.

EFL chairman Rick Parry told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee that it would breach "the tripartite agreement" in place to ensure promotion and relegation.


Also, clubs safe from relegation are not willing to expand the league - even for one season - and decrease any share of TV money they are owed.

High-profile players such as Sergio Aguero have voiced their concerns about playing during the pandemic and potentially picking up the virus and seeing relatives or living with pregnant partners.

In contrast, some players are also being made acutely aware of the effect failing to start next season will have on football, with their industry under threat. Training in small groups is expected to restart later this month, with Germany already planning matches for the Bundesliga.

Medical concerns and neutral venues will be the major discussions on Monday. Chairmen also want a definitive ruling on extensions for contracts expiring on June 30. With the campaign running into the summer, Fifa have approved plans to extend deals but there is no directive on whether it will be compulsory.

Despite the focus being put on the relegation-threatened clubs and their opposition to neutral venues, Brighton chief executive Paul Barber insists it is not just sides fighting for Premier League survival who oppose the completion of the season at neutral venues.

The Seagulls boss remains opposed to finishing the 2019-20 campaign on anything other than a home-and-away basis, even though Premier League clubs are understood to have been told the use of eight to 10 neutral venues is the only way it can be done in a way which satisfies the government and emergency services amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder said clubs had "taken a line on their position in the division" but Barber said teams higher up the table shared his view that playing at neutral venues was a step too far in terms of sporting integrity.

"There are clubs at different levels of the league that have objections to neutral venues and I think there is concern about the fairness element," he said.