Clubs, English Premier League, Liverpool, Story

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Liverpool could be in danger of not having a trophy presentation should they clinch the Premier League title following the planned resumption of play this season, league chief executive Richard Masters said.

According to Masters, the Premier League will assess the social distancing and safety aspects of organising a presentation before giving the runaway leaders the green light for players to take part in the traditional end-of-season medal ceremony, if they confirm the club’s first league title since 1990.

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English football’s top flight has been suspended since March 13 due to the coronavirus crisis, and although players will return to contact-free training on Tuesday, no date has been set for Premier League fixtures to resume. June 12 remains the favoured date for fixtures to start again.

Liverpool went into the shutdown with a 25-point lead over closest challengers Manchester City, with Jurgen Klopp’s team needing just two wins from their remaining nine games to seal the title.

There had been some talk of cancelling the season — although that is looking increasingly unlikely with clubs voting to resume training soon — and Klopp rubished that talk, trophy presentation or not.

“There were those discussion to null and void the season,” Klopp told kicker. “I only thought: ‘What? We played 76 percent of the season and they want to void that thing?’ That would have been something I would have felt hard done by on a personal level. That you just say it never happened.”

With the Premier League only able to return if football adheres to strict social distancing measures, Masters has said that safety concerns must be allayed before a trophy presentation can be sanctioned.

“If at all possible, yes [we want a trophy presentation],” Masters told reporters on a conference call Monday. “We would like to have a trophy presentation to give the players and staff the moment they have worked so hard for.

“We would try to do it unless it wasn’t possible because of safety concerns.”

With Tuesday’s return to training the first significant step in Project Restart, the Premier League hopes to be able to follow the German Bundesliga, which began playing again Saturday, by restarting its competition next month.

But all games will be staged behind closed doors — the Premier League has yet to secure government permission for games to be played on a home and away basis rather than at neutral venues — and supporters will not be able to watch their teams at stadiums for the remainder of this campaign.

Masters also said that the Premier League could not guarantee that fans will be back inside stadiums next season after admitting that government advice will be the deciding factor on how the 2020-21 season plays out.

“From a planning perspective, we are focused on finishing the 2019-20 season, but we also have to plan for all eventualities,” he said. “We don’t know where we will be further down the line regarding fans in stadiums. No one knows yet.

“We simply don’t know is the clear answer and we are reliant on government and medical advice.

“So it is prudent for us to plan for the start of next season in different ways and that’s exactly what we’re doing. Obviously we simply don’t know at this stage.

“All of today’s focus has been on [getting] back to training, which is the very first step in all of this. The conversations on next season will take place at a future date.”

Mark Gillett, the Premier League medical advisor, supported Masters’ comments by saying that football must accept a “new normal” just like every other area of society.

“The only way that you can eliminate risk completely is to lock yourself in the house and not go out,” Gillett said. “In terms of a vaccine and everybody becoming immune, and the vaccine being distributed, I don’t think any expert is saying that is going to happen in the next few months.

“So certainly, in terms of social distancing and the new normal, that cultural change we are asking footballers to make, I think we are going to have to be facing that for the foreseeable future.

“I think that is an important point to get across.”

Meanwhile, Richard Garlick, the Premier League director of football, said that clubs would be monitored at training grounds to ensure that all protocols are followed to avoid some attempting to gain an advantage by training for longer than the maximum allowed time of 75 minutes.

“We can request information from videoing of the sessions and GPS data, too,” Garlick said. “We are also looking at bringing in our own independent audit inspection team that we’ll scale up over the next few days which will give us the ability to have inspections at training grounds to start with on a no-notice basis.

“Gradually, we aim to ramp that up so we can have an inspector at every training ground.

“That will enable us to give everyone confidence that the protocols are being complied with, and give the public confidence that we are trying to create a very safe working environment.”

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