Watford Become Latest Premier League Club to Publicly Voice Concerns Over 'Project Restart'

Nike Premier League Strike Football
Nike Premier League Strike Football | Visionhaus/Getty Images

Watford have become the latest club to voice concerns over 'Project Restart', with chief executive Scott Duxbury declaring that there are 'clear' downsides to playing in this 'kind of distorted nine-game mini-league'.

Authorities in England are seemingly determined to find a way to complete the 2019/20 season, but despite this, there are still a number of dilemmas and barriers that need to be overcome before play is able to resume and players are able to return to training safely.

One of the major issues in more recent times is the idea of playing the remainder of the campaign at neutral venues. Most notably, bottom six clubs including Brighton and Aston Villa - and potentially others - are said to be against this idea as they would lose the 'home advantage' as they look to fight to stay in the division.

The 'toxic rift' has now deepened, with it being suggested that clubs who oppose the neutral venue proposal in the Premier League meeting on Monday could be threatened with a points deduction.

This hasn't stopped Watford chief executive Duxbury from publicly criticising the plans to return to action, stating that this plan only benefits certain clubs. Writing in The Times, Duxbury said: “There is no altruism in the Premier League. There are 20 different vested interests which sometimes align but more often than not work purely to protect each individual club.

General Views of Sport Venues after events postponed due to Covid-19
General Views of Sport Venues after events postponed due to Covid-19 | Marc Atkins/Getty Images

“That is why some clubs are happy to sign up to Project Restart because arguably there is only an upside in participating in this compromised format; it means Liverpool can win the title, other clubs can book their place in Europe next season or potentially fight their way up the table from a position of safety.

“But when at least six clubs - and I suspect more - are concerned about the clear downside and the devastating effects of playing in this kind of distorted nine-game mini-league, then I believe the Premier League has a duty of care to address those concerns.

“In the world of COVID-19, there is no such thing as an entirely safe environment wherever we play. The police also talk about fans flouting restrictions when football restarts and that this is a concern for the authorities, but I believe we would have more control over supporters playing at our own grounds.”

Duxbury's comments will only increase the tension that already exists between top-flight clubs, while it is certain to be a major topic of discussion in the Premier League meeting on Monday.

However, due to his comments, The Times add that the issue of neutral venues is now 'unlikely' to be voted upon before players and managers hold discussions regarding safety protocols and any concerns - which is likely to take place on Thursday.