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Villa chief against Premier League neutral venue plan

London (AFP) – Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow does not support the Premier League’s plan to finish the season at neutral venues because it increases the risk of a relegation “catastrophe” for his club.

League chiefs are aiming to restart the postponed season in June and hope to complete the remaining 92 fixtures behind closed doors at neutral venues in a bid to avoid coronavirus risks.

But Purslow feels taking away home advantage would punish clubs such as Villa, who usually draw large, vociferous crowds.

Villa are second bottom of the table, two points from safety, but with a game in hand on fourth-bottom Watford.

“Personally I’m against it (neutral venues),” Purslow told TalkSport on Wednesday. “We’re a club that prides itself on home form. Two-thirds of our wins this season have come at home.”

“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.”

The financial implications of relegation would be huge for the club in their first season back in the English top-flight.

Fellow strugglers Brighton have also opposed the stadium switch and Purslow said agreeing to neutral venues would be foolish for a club in Villa’s perilous position. 

“At the bottom end of the table there’s a much smaller revenue base, but the risk of relegation is probably a £200 million ($247 million) catastrophe for any club that mathematically could still go down,” he said.

Purslow was speaking a day after English Football League chairman Rick Parry said things would get “very messy” if the Premier League tried to block promotion from the Championship this season.

Leeds and West Bromwich Albion currently hold the automatic promotion places in the English second tier.

But Purslow responded with a damning verdict on the finances of the Football League.

“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.”

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