The head of the UK’s football police unit has told clubs opposing plans to play at neutral grounds to ‘get a grip’.
In significant comments that undermine the argument of the likes of relegation-threatened Brighton and Aston Villa, deputy chief constable Mark Roberts has reminded those complaining about integrity issues that 30,000 people in the UK have lost their lives as a result of coronavirus.
Christian Purslow, Villa’s chief executive, said he could not take the risk of triggering a £200million ‘catastrophe of relegation’ by agreeing to play at neutral venues and others battling at the wrong end of the table are also against the plans.
A football policing chief has told football clubs opposing neutral venues to 'get a grip'
The head of the UK’s football police unit, Mark Roberts, has insisted the issues is 'not a big deal'
Roberts said: ‘We need to temper things. When you see people arguing the integrity is so important that “we played them away and now it’s neutral” or “they had their fans and we can’t have ours” — it might be a big deal in football terms, but in broader society where we have lost 30,000 people and growing that’s not a big deal.
'Some people in football need to get a grip and recognise there’s a bigger picture here.’
While the police will not make the final decision, their input is vital. It is unlikely that football would be able to restart without their backing. Roberts said: ‘It’s not for the police to tell football what to do but we will offer an opinion about what’s practical. Presumably if they want our support they will have to listen to what we say.’
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In a frank interview, Roberts also warned that playing matches at their originally intended venues would cause serious issues.
‘We’ve all got a responsibility to minimise the risk and ensure no more numbers than necessary succumb to the virus and no more families have to grieve,’ he said. ‘If we all come up with a plan that increases the risk of more deaths then we are all failing in our responsibility to the public.’
Concerns have been raised over the likelihood of fans gathering outside stadiums when matches are being played and Roberts outlined the dangers. He said: ‘Does anyone seriously think that you wouldn’t get a