Premier League strugglers oppose neutral ground ‘Project Restart’ solution

The Premier League’s proposed ‘Project Restart’ has faced further criticism from clubs who feel their fight against relegation may be affected by changes to the competition.

Premier League strugglers oppose neutral ground ‘Project Restart’ solution
Matthew Childs Action Images via Reuters

Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow has spoken out against proposed changes to the Premier League’s fixture list that he feels will negatively affect his side’s fight to stay in the league:

"We're a club that prides itself on home form, I think two thirds of our wins this season have come at home,” he told Talksport.

"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”.

So far no decisions have been made regarding the Premier League’s return but the suggestion that that games would be played on neutral venues had gained traction in recent weeks. The change would reduce the movement of players and officials across the country and would allow the remaining matches to be played in a shorter period of time.

But with such enormous financial implications for the sides relegated, clubs at the bottom are reluctant to agree to anything that may harm their chances of survival. The situation is not helped by the closeness of this season’s relegation battle. The relegation places are currently filled by Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Norwich City but Brighton, West Ham and Watford are all less than three points from the drop-zone.

Clubs want relegation assurances before agreeing to restart

The Mirror reports that some top-flight clubs are seeking assurances that the threat of relegation will be removed for the 2019/20 before they agree to the league’s proposals.

However it appears unlikely that the Premier League will decide to scrap relegation for the season with the FA believed to have the last say. Doing so would also mean either expanding the top-flight to 22 or 23 teams, or preventing any Championship sides from being promoted.

Rick Parry, Chairman of the English Football League, has told a government committee for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that he has made his position clear to the Premier League.

“We expect three Championship clubs to be promoted… The Premier League are aware of our position on that. The Premier League expects three clubs to be relegated”.

Asked what would happen if the Premier League did decide to ditch relegation for the season, Parry said:

“The safe answer is that it would get very messy. Our expectation is there would be three clubs promoted from the Championship.”