London (AFP) – Gary Neville has accused Premier League clubs of being “frightened to death” to publicly back the plan to restart the season.
Premier League stakeholders met on Friday to debate how to finish the current campaign, with reports that some clubs want to abandon the season due to the pandemic and others are keen to play all remaining 92 fixtures.
Former Manchester United defender Neville believes clubs do not want to be held liable should a player become ill with the coronavirus if the English season resumes.
The French and Dutch seasons have been called off because of the health crisis and while the Premier League have apparently ear-marked a June return, that date is far from set in stone.
Claiming there needs to be more public comment from clubs, Neville wrote on Twitter: “The PL are having a CV nightmare. They keep spouting Health First but then brief constantly ‘We have to Re-Start’.
“I’d respect them more if they said ‘We accept the increase in Health Risk but it’s one we are willing to take’. They won’t as they are frightened to death!”
When Neville was asked by a Twitter user what would happen if someone died as a result of the restart, he said: “That’s why we haven’t heard one single prominent CEO / Chairman / Owner or Executive open his mouth to back the re-start ! Brief / Brief / Brief ! Scared to death of the liability and blame.”
Before making an exception for Brighton as the “only club willing to take a stand”, Neville added: “It would be good for them to speak at least once. Any of them! Clubs included. They are bottling this virus on comms. Very Happy to tell us when they are delivering food parcels though.”
Brighton have held virtual press conferences during the shutdown and chief executive Paul Barber voiced opposition to the idea of finishing the season at neutral venues on his club’s official website on Saturday.
Despite Neville’s out-spoken claims, Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish did make the case for returning to action in a Sunday Times column.
“I believe that just as Formula One is often the precursor to developments that become standard in general road vehicles, so Premier League football with its physical science, medical infrastructures and resources for looking after its people, can begin to define how the ‘new normal’ might look for a lot of working environments,” Parish wrote.
“Not only that, in our country and beyond, people need to find ways to move forward mentally, to experience some small relief from the worries of this crisis.
“In my view a story here and a conversation there about the game last night will not trivialise loss or suffering but offer a tiny respite from it for many people. It has the power to lighten lives; why not see if we can use that power again?”
Neville later praised Parish for speaking out after being alerted to the article by the Palace chairman.
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