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Watford the latest PL club to oppose neutral stadiums

Watford FC v Aston Villa - Premier League

WATFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28: Troy Deeney of Watford celebrates with his teammates after scoring his team’s second goal during the Premier League match between Watford FC and Aston Villa at Vicarage Road on December 28, 2019 in Watford, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

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Watford are the latest Premier League club to oppose using neutral stadiums to restart the season.

A growing number of PL clubs have voiced opposition to using 8-10 neutral venues to complete the final 92 games of the 2019-20 Premier League season, as both Brighton and Aston Villa have said they will not support playing in neutral stadiums.

The argument against neural stadiums has now been raised by Watford chairman Scott Duxbury who wrote an open letter in The Times newspaper.

“I, of course, absolutely accept we cannot have supporters in the stadium,” Duxbury said. “That goes without saying in the present situation. However, we are now told we cannot play our remaining home games at Vicarage Road and the familiarity and advantage that brings... 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.”

Duxbury went on to say there are at least six teams, and probably more, who are concerned about the “devastating effects of playing in this kind of distorted nine-game mini-league.”

The Premier League needs 14 of their 20 clubs to vote in favor of ‘Project Restart’ plans for it to happen and neutral stadiums appear to be the main sticking point as the UK government has said that is the only way the 2019-20 season can resume. Some PL stadiums are located in heavily populated areas where infection rates are high and the government sees it as an unnecessary risk.

Watford, Aston Villa and Brighton are of course all involved in the relegation scrap and if the season restarted and they were relegated, each club stands to lose over $250 million in revenue.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will give his next update on Sunday, May 10, as minimal changes to lockdown orders are expected.

The next Premier League club meeting will be on Monday, May 11 to move ‘Project Restart’ to the next phase, and then will come a vote next week on possibly vote on resuming the season. All 20 Premier League clubs have so far agreed that they want to finish the current season but only when things improve and it is safe to play again.

Growing opposition from teams towards the bottom of the table could however see the vote being a lot closer than many previously believed it would be. Watford being against neutral stadiums isn’t surprising as many of the Premier League’s smaller teams rely on their intimidating home atmosphere to pick up the majority of their points. Even though there will be no fans present, their argument that the familiarity of home surroundings has an advantage has legs.

In Germany teams will be play games in their home stadium when the Bundesliga restarts next Saturday, while in Spain’s La Liga teams are also expected to play at empty home stadiums. Each country and league is in a different situation and if the Premier League season is to resume, getting clubs on board with neutral stadiums is key.

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