Coronavirus wrap: Aston Villa latest club to oppose neutral venue plan

Aston Villa have joined Brighton and West Ham in publicly opposing the idea of completing the Premier League season at neutral venues but Burnley boss Sean Dyche is hopeful football can return soon.

Villa chief executive Christian Purslow warned clubs would not support measures that increased the risk of the “£200million catastrophe” that is relegation.

It is understood that Premier League clubs have been told the only way to complete the season is for the remaining 92 matches to be played at neutral venues.

Aston Villa v AFC Bournemouth – Premier League – Villa Park
Purslow suggested Villa’s home form was key to their survival hopes (Tim Goode/PA)

“Personally I’m against it,” Purslow said on talkSPORT. “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.”

Villa, having played a game less than those around them, sit in the relegation zone as things stand, two points behind West Ham – who are outside the bottom three on goal difference – with Brighton a further two points better off in 15th place.

Purslow’s comments came as League Managers Association chief executive Richard Bevan warned the season could be cancelled if clubs did not agree to playing at neutral venues.

“The Government, if they haven’t already, will be making it clear that home matches with densely populated stadia really puts into question whether social distancing rules can be adhered to and without doubt that will be on the voting next Monday with the clubs,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Burnley boss Dyche hopes the campaign can be completed, as long as safety protocols are followed.

“There are lots of ideas and lots of thoughts,” he said on Clarets Player HD. “We are very pro the idea of moving forward, when we can of course and when it’s safe, and the players are clear-minded about that as well.

“They want the season to carry on and finish.”

Clarets backing @premierleague return when time is righthttps://t.co/pZWHB1tAL4

— Burnley FC (@BurnleyOfficial) May 6, 2020

Turkey’s Super Lig announced plans to complete its own campaign, with the Football Federation president Nihat Ozdemir saying June 12 was the target date.

Ozdemir added that he remained hopeful that in August Turkey could still host the Champions League final – originally scheduled to take place in Istanbul on May 30.

As football looks to negotiate a safe return, England rugby forwards coach Matt Proudfoot has said he expects it will take “a bit of time” before players can resume contact training.

Proudfoot, who masterminded the Springboks’ World Cup final demolition of England before joining up with Eddie Jones’ squad, is currently in his native South Africa where he is linking up with his new charges through social media.

France v England – Guinness Six Nations – Stade de France
England’s forwards are facing particular challenges in the coronavirus lockdown (David Davies/PA)

One of the biggest challenges has been plotting a programme for forwards, who need tough physical training.

“Our strength and conditioning guys have been in contact with the players and clubs, and tried to formulate a process that is best suited to the individual,” he said.

“Rather than a generic programme that most teams would follow, we’ve tried to look at the player from a holistic point of view – where could we improve him in his home environment where we couldn’t have improved him in camp.

“Contact training is something that is going to take a bit of time. Once we can start training in smaller groups and institute smaller group situations, things can start to change a little bit.”

Meanwhile, the International Golf Federation has announced the World Amateur Team Championships, originally due to be held in Hong Kong in October and then shifted to Singapore, have been cancelled.

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