Liverpool will win the Premier League in the event of curtailment
LONDON - Premier League clubs received a stark warning on Monday that relegation will be enforced even if the season is not finished – amid growing rebellion over Project Restart.
Sportsmail can reveal at least two-thirds of the 20 clubs on yesterday’s conference call expressed opposition to the plan to play all the remaining 92 matches at neutral venues. This is a significant shift in opinion, which led the Premier League to pledge to discuss the matter again with the UK government.
While the bottom six have been clear all along about their hostility to the neutral grounds plan, they were joined yesterday by a number of bigger clubs further up the Premier League table.
They have well-publicised concerns over the integrity of the competition and doubts as to whether neutral stadiums would be easier to police. Several clubs highlighted a fear of losing significant revenue if they are unable to play at their own ground.
While all matches will take place behind closed doors, the fact they will be televised means they have considerable commercial value to clubs.
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters confirmed after the meeting that the opposition to neutral grounds had grown, and the Premier League would discuss the matter once again with the authorities.
The government’s position is not fixed, although head of UK football policing Mark Roberts told complaining clubs last week they should "get a grip".
Masters said: "Obviously it is the preference of all our clubs to play at home if at all possible. But all must be cognisant of what authorities are telling us and we will continue with that conversation. It is an ongoing dialogue.
"We are in contact with the authorities and listening to that advice while also representing club views in those discussions."
Masters confirmed that the possibility of curtailing the season had been discussed for the first time and that relegation would be imposed even in that instance.
Sportsmail revealed last week that leading clubs were threatening to call a vote on implementing relegation if their wishes to resume the season as soon as possible were thwarted.
The uncompromising message was reinforced by FA chairman Greg Clarke, who made it clear the governing body will not sanction the season being voided or relegation scrapped.
The FA have wide-ranging powers as a ‘special shareholder’ within the Premier League’s founding constitution, including a veto on issues involving promotion and relegation.
Clarke urged the clubs to draw up a plan for if the season cannot be completed.
It is understood that in the event of curtailment, final league positions would be decided on sporting merit, most likely using a points-per-game system.
This would lead to Liverpool being crowned champions and the current bottom three of Norwich, Bournemouth and Aston Villa being relegated to the Championship.
"It was the first time we discussed curtailment," said Masters. "It’s still our aim to finish the season, obviously, but it’s important to discuss all the options with our clubs."Daily Mail