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Police chief fears ‘legislation’ only way to stop fans gathering

London (AFP) – Greater Manchester’s Police (GMP) chief has warned legislation could be the only way to stop fans gathering outside stadiums if the Premier League restarts amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Premier League organisers want to resume the postponed season behind closed doors in June and are thrashing out the controversial issue of where to play the remaining 92 fixtures.

The league has reportedly lobbied the government to allow them to play at each team’s stadium rather than neutral venues.

The neutral ground plan, which was originally mooted in talks between Premier League stakeholders, has been criticised by several clubs, prompting the attempt to switch back to home and away games.

But GMP chief Ian Hopkins is not convinced matches should be staged in major football cities like Manchester during the pandemic.

“What we’re fearful of is that people will turn up either at neutral grounds or at home grounds, and some of that could be particularly problematic,” Hopkins said on Wednesday.

“We’ve all got to get to a position where we feel it can be done safely without jeopardising people’s health and that has to be the starting point for people.

“The next point then is what provisions can the clubs put in place to prevent people coming, and obviously we can use legislation where it’s applicable to stop that as well.”

Hopkins said controlling crowds is not impossible but stopping them gathering in the first place should be the priority to protect people’s health.

“I’m not saying from a policing perspective it would be impossible to police because clearly it wouldn’t,” he said.

“We police hundreds of thousands of people in normal circumstances at events right across Greater Manchester.

“But we are in very special and difficult times, and it remains a health issue so the thought of large groups of people coming together and not practising social distancing is a difficult one.”

Hopkins pin-pointed Manchester City’s home game against Premier League leaders Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium as a potential flashpoint in the bid to keep fans from gathering in large groups.

That match could even see Liverpool end a 30-year wait to win a league title.

“Liverpool coming to Manchester City I have no doubt would attract crowds whether they’re allowed in the ground or not,” Hopkins added.

“It needs very, very careful thinking through.”

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. cliff kobland

    May 13, 2020 at 9:09 pm

    It appears that GMP chief Ian Hopkins is the one sane voice I’ve heard from in this total insanity being floated by SOME of PL clubs. Playing at all is problematic but playing, even behind closed doors, at non-neutral sites is sheer madness. Has anyone seen the crowds that gather as opposing team bus try to navigate around Old Trafford, or Anfield or most any PL stadia should realize social distancing would be a farce while police would be placed at great risk for the selfishness of the PL. As there will be no fans in the stands, if these matches were played on PL quality pitches, the park”s capacity is not a consideration., Only factor is that the grounds be situated a fair distance from ether participant’s home locale. This makes much more sense but only if health & safety trumps football tables & money. Fear the PL is more concerned with the latter. Wonder if they’ll add a column for deaths to the final table?

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