Great Britain

Dave Kidd: It took a heroic effort to get season back on.. fans have no grounds to whinge over neutral venues

THEY have bent over backwards to make Project Restart a reality and ensure that Liverpool claim the title they so richly deserve.

Despite the quite reasonable fears of many players, managers and others in wider society, the Premier League’s clubs have shown unity and decisiveness by agreeing to restart the season on June 17.

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There will be no nulling and voiding and, assuming all is safe and well, no asterisk to denote a curtailed season against the Reds’ first title in 30 years.

So there should be no squabbling over whether Liverpool are allowed to play on Merseyside until they have been confirmed as champions — or even if they are forced away from Anfield for the remainder of this season.

With Jurgen Klopp’s men a staggering 25 points clear, there is no doubt they will be crowned champions. Their season to date has been the most dominant league campaign in the history of the English top flight, with 27 wins from 29 matches.

And so there can be no reasonable argument about a lack of ‘sporting integrity’ in them being asked to play their remaining home matches at neutral venues, as well as their next fixture, the Merseyside derby scheduled for Goodison Park.

Those supporters have been unfairly smeared in the past but this is not another example of that lazy, prejudiced thinking.

Especially as the Bundesliga’s return has strongly suggested home advantage simply does not exist in behind-closed-doors matches.

Klopp, as usual, showed an admirable sense of perspective when he insisted it did not matter where Liverpool clinch their crown. Merely getting the season back on looked highly unlikely a few weeks ago, so there should be rejoicing, rather than whingeing, from Liverpool’s fans.

Those supporters have been unfairly smeared in the past but this is not another example of that lazy, prejudiced thinking.

And it was Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson, who made the point most stridently about the problems of Klopp’s men winning the title at Anfield.

Anderson said: “Even if it was behind closed doors, there’d be many thousands of people who would turn up outside Anfield.

“There’s not many people who would respect what we were saying and stay away from the ground, a lot of people would come to celebrate so I think it’s a non-starter.”

Evertonian Anderson angered Liverpool with those words and the club issued a statement voicing their ‘disappointment’.

They are still lobbying hard to play their remaining home fixtures at Anfield.

But after a decade as the city’s leader Anderson surely has a keen sense about what would happen if — as is the most likely outcome — Klopp’s men win the title in the final weekend of June, in a home fixture against Crystal Palace. Merseyside Police’s assistant chief constable Rob Carden is adamant that this not a public order issue but rather a matter of public health.

He said: “In relation to crime and disorder we have no objections to any of the Everton or Liverpool home fixtures being played at their respective grounds.

“We have a good working relationship with both clubs, and their fan groups, and are content that we can work together in advance of the restart.

“Decisions in relation to public health risk are made by the Government and Public Health England and ultimately the final decision rests with the Safety Advisory Group chaired by Liverpool City Council.”

Nobody is branding Liverpool supporters as hooligans here. It is simply that the pandemic has not eased enough for mass public gatherings to be allowed.

If we were ready for a street party, then they could pack Anfield, and every other football ground, for the rest of the season.

As it stands, we are unlikely to see full houses at any stadium for the remainder of this calendar year and perhaps beyond.

These are imperfect times and it will be an extraordinary effort to resume the season and ensure Liverpool have their coronation, wherever that may be.

Premier League to return as Government gives competitive sport behind closed doors the green light

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