Manchester police may use new legislation to prevent fans from coming to Premier League games, fearing Liverpool’s journey to Etihad – as the city’s mayor urges clubs to listen to concerned players
- Ian Hopkins, GMP chief of police, says “frightened” fans will come to games
- Remaining 92 games of the Premier League season to be played without crowds
- They could be played on all 20 top flying locations or on selected neutral ground
- Match between Manchester City and Liverpool identified as a high risk match
- Hopkins said the force would be prepared to take legal action to prevent a restart
The Premier League discovered just how great a job it was to convince the police to resume football in all 20 stadiums on Wednesday, as Greater Manchester chief of police said he was opposed to a return and considered Manchester City vs Liverpool a risky game.
GMP chief Ian Hopkins said the corps was “worried” that fans would show up at matches, whether they were staged on a neutral or home ground, and that the corps could “use legislation” if necessary to prevent that.
Hopkins said, “What we’re afraid of is that people will show up on neutral grounds or at home, and that can be particularly problematic.
Manchester City vs Liverpool has been identified by the Greater Manchester Police as a high-risk fixture that worries fans coming together outside empty stadiums
GMP chief Ian Hopkins is ‘afraid’ that fans would show up at closed-door matches
“There may be quite tricky fixtures. Liverpool are coming to Man City, I have no doubt it would attract many whether they are allowed in the ground or not. It has to be thought very, very carefully. ‘
Liverpool’s trip to Etihad is City’s third final of the season.
Hopkins’ concern was echoed by Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who also said it would be wrong to return to the game at a time when players like City’s Raheem Sterling were expressing their fears.
Sterling has said that some members of his family have died of the corona virus and that he is “reserved” about plans to restart the Premier League.
During his weekly press conference, conducted by video, Burnham said, “The best way to approach it is to listen to the people most affected by the restart, which are the players, the managers and the referees.
GMP chief of police, Ian Hopkins, has expressed his concerns about the return of the Premier League
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said it would be wrong to return with players expressing their fears during the Covid-19 pandemic
“People will have been beaten by Raheem Sterling in the past 24 hours and say he doesn’t feel particularly safe because he has lost people who are particularly close to him.
“Pep lost his mother. You have to take into account the concerns of the players. Their opinion should take precedence in a possible restart.
“The issues the chief of police spoke about add [to the case] against any early restart. ‘
Many senior officers still believe that neutral locations are preferable to the season ending with conventional home and away games, as there is a risk of fans gathering in large numbers. But the police want to be open-minded and constructed.
Police across the country are facing challenges when football resumes in the coming weeks
They are willing to look at proposals for a 20-ground conclusion and ‘have the conversation,’ in the words of a senior officer.
There is some frustration among senior officers at the lack of concrete proposals presented to them by the Premier League.
For all the talk about the 92 games that closed in 10 neutral locations – the cause of civil war at the Premier League clubs last week – the police have never seen proposals indicating which stadiums the league is proposing.
Different forces may have different views based on the remaining cases of coronavirus in their areas. Burnham is against ending the Stay at Home message because cases in the Northwest remain relatively high.
Hopkins said, “We must all reach a position where it can be done safely without compromising people’s health. That must be the starting point for me.
“The next part is what facilities clubs can make to prevent people from coming – and of course where we can use legislation where applicable.”