Premier League: Watford strongly oppose neutral ground proposal

  • Premier League clubs Brighton & Hove Albion, Aston Villa, and other clubs have opposed the proposed plan
  • Watford chairman believes that it could impact the smaller clubs and questions the lack of sporting integrity
Sai Teja
Modified 09 May 2020, 20:14 IST

Watford against Liverpool in the Premier League Watford chairman Scott Duxbury
Watford against Liverpool in the Premier League Watford chairman Scott Duxbury

The Premier League have been working through this lockdown to map out a plan to bring football back to England by mid-June. In association with the English government, the Premier League under the title Project Restart have made it clear that they are attempting to resume the 2019/20 season behind closed doors at neutral venues.

However, there are a number of English clubs have spoken out against the idea of this proposed plan. Brighton & Hove Albion and Aston Villa were the first Premier League clubs to have done so by objecting the idea of playing games at neutral venues.

Now, Watford chairman Scott Duxbury has followed suit and revealed his stance on the plan proposed by Project Restart.

'Premier League must propose a fair model'

In a statement on the official club website, Duxbury began,

"Football is coming back. The government has made that clear and the culture secretary Oliver Dowden enforced that view with his comments yesterday."
"The debate is no longer whether football should return but whether the Premier League can deliver a model every club accepts as a fair and equitable solution before resumption."

The Hornets' chairman brought up the point of how the Premier League clubs would now potentially be forced to play in unfamiliar situations which could prove to be a significant stumbling block.

Watford are the only team to beat Liverpool in the Premier League this season
Watford are the only team to beat Liverpool in the Premier League this season

"We needed to control every element at our disposal. If all that comes together, then we have a chance of beating Liverpool or indeed any of the top teams. This happens more regularly in the Premier League than it does in, say, Germany, Italy or Spain. That’s why the Premier League is such a fantastic spectacle, loved throughout the world."

Furthermore, he spoke about how it would be unfair to expect the players to perform like they usually do during such unfortunate circumstances around them. He added,

"I, of course, absolutely accept we cannot have supporters in the stadium. That goes without saying in the present situation."
"However, we are now told we cannot play our remaining home games at Vicarage Road and the familiarity and advantage that brings. This against a backdrop of players who, having seen their lives turned upside down along with the rest of the world, are suddenly expected to perform as if nothing has happened, despite the rest of society probably still facing the kind of restrictions unenforceable on a football pitch."

Duxbury even went on to question the sporting integrity of the Premier League's plan. The staff currently being employed by the club are working under unprecedented circumstances. Added to that, the Premier League so drastically morphing the nature of the competition could impact clubs such as Watford heavily, as per the chairman.

Watford chairman Scott Duxbury
Watford chairman Scott Duxbury
"We have club medical staff working under conditions that no doctor or physio has ever experienced with guidelines that, in no small part, are based at this stage on supposition rather than scientific fact. And with all these compromises and health risks we are asked to finish a competition that bears no resemblance to the one we started, which could end a small club like Watford's time in the Premier League.
"So is this fair? Does it have any semblance of sporting integrity? Of course not."

Given the fact that 17th-placed Watford aren't the only club to openly express their disdain at the Premier League's plan, Duxbury feels that the league must address the concerns of the clubs who oppose the plan.

"When at least six clubs — and I suspect more — are concerned about the clear downside and the devastating effects of playing in this kind of distorted nine-game mini-league, then I believe the Premier League has a duty of care to address those concerns."

All 20 Premier League clubs are set to meet with other officials on Monday and decide on when to take the vote. For this plan to be put in motion, 14 of the 20 clubs at the least must be in alignment with the Premier League.

With clubs such as Brighton & Hove Albion, Aston Villa, and now Watford openly declaring their stance against the Premier League's plan, only time will tell what the final outcome of the all-important meeting will be.

Published 09 May 2020, 20:14 IST
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