London (AFP) – Watford have become the latest English top-flight club to hit out at proposals by the Premier League to end the season at neutral venues, with chairman Scott Duxbury worried about the impact of a «distorted nine-game mini-league».
Clubs are due to meet on Monday to consider the Premier League’s controversial ‘Project Restart’ plan, which seeks to play the season to a finish following its suspension because of the coronavirus pandemic, with Watford joining fellow relegation candidates Brighton and Aston Villa in voicing their opposition.
Duxbury, while accepting fans cannot attend because of COVID-19, is unhappy with a proposal that would see 17th-place Watford denied the «familiarity and advantage» of playing at Vicarage Road.
«There is no altruism in the Premier League,» Duxbury wrote in Saturday’s edition of The Times.
«There are 20 different vested interests, which sometimes align but more often than not work purely to protect each individual club.
«That is why some clubs are happy to sign up to ‘Project Restart’ because arguably there is only an upside in participating in this compromised format; it means (leaders) Liverpool can win the title, other clubs can book their place in Europe next season.»
«But 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.»
Duxbury said it was wrong to switch to neutral venues three-quarters of the way through a season.
«How can the long-term future of clubs be determined under these fundamentally changed conditions? How is there any semblance of fairness? To wave aside all the fears and concerns is too simplistic.
«Surely all 20 clubs must agree the fairest way forward to complete the season?»
A 14-6 majority of would, however be enough for Project Restart to be put into action.
– ‘Is this fair?’ –
Duxbury also insisted it was wrong to play matches when society was «probably still facing the kind of restrictions unenforceable on a football pitch».
«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.»
The Premier League is facing a colossal estimated loss of around 1 billion pounds ($1.25 billion) if no more football is played this season.
Playing the 92 remaining games behind closed doors would mitigate that loss, avoiding the loss of hundreds of millions of broadcast revenue.
Elsewhere in Europe, Germany’s Bundesliga is set to restart but France’s Ligue I has been declared over, with Paris Saint-Germain named champions.