Crystal Palace chairman, Steve Parish believes people opposed to football returning at neutral grounds “aren’t looking far enough down the road” amid growing fears of the economic impact of the coronanvirus pandemic.
In his column in The Sunday Times, Parish wrote that he would understand if the nation decided that it was inappropriate for football to return, but he argued it would help no one if football or any industry “come out the other side in a worse state than we otherwise could have”.
The Premier League met on Friday to discuss ‘Project Restart’ with clubs committed to finishing the season when some social restrictions are relaxed. It is understood the league is still working towards a best-case scenario of play being able to resume from the week beginning June 8.
Parish told The Football Show on Tuesday that completing the Premier League season at neutral venues is the “least-worst option” and claims he would take the same stance if his club were in the relegation zone.
When asked if his position would be different if Palace were in the bottom three, Parish told Sky Sports: “I said this in the meeting and I honestly believe that I would be saying the same thing. I do fear that people aren’t looking far enough down the road and seeing the consequences of us not playing. I think the best way to resolve that is to do so competitively.
“It’s the least worst option. That’s the territory we’re in with life at the moment. Next season, in all likelihood, we’ll start with neutral grounds, and I’m sure we’d like to get back into our stadiums as soon as possible. There will be a distortion of the competition that way around.
“All the pitches are pretty much the same size, and an empty stadium is an empty stadium. I think it’ll be a level playing field from when we start.
“As with any season, there will be bumps and idiosyncrasies… you can have injuries during the season and fixtures rescheduled, all sorts of things that can play against you during the season. Luck does play a part and I’m sure most clubs now will have a fully fit squad so there are swings and roundabouts.”
Parish claimed earlier this week that the return of the Premier League could offer people small relief from worries of the coronavirus crisis and help define the “new normal” for other industries.
The Palace co-owner defended attempts to get the season back up and running amid the pandemic, and while he acknowledged the importance of public health being put before sport, he admitted the bleak reality of revenue streams drying up beyond August.
He added: “This is a massive public health crisis, and we all accept that comes before everything. But after the public health crisis there is an economic crisis, and we’re no different. My job is to try and look forward, protect the jobs of people in our industry and the health of our industry going forward. We are in a very unusual situation; we have events we need to put on and if we don’t, we’ll be in a very critical situation.