Jason McAteer fears '30,000 people or more' could show up at Anfield
‘From a safety point of view, we can’t risk that’: Former Liverpool star Jason McAteer fears ‘30,000 people or more’ could show up at Anfield if Reds win the Premier League behind closed doors as he insists neutral venues should be used
- Liverpool are on the brink of winning their first top-flight title in 30 years
- Plans are being drawn up to play the remaining nine games behind closed doors
- Former Red Jason McAteer believes games should be played at neutral venues
- Premier League clubs will speak again on Monday to try to find a way forward
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Jason McAteer fears that 30,000 Liverpool fans could turn up outside Anfield if they win the league behind closed doors.
The Reds were on the brink of winning their first top-flight title in 30 years before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus.
Now plans are being drawn up to play the remaining nine games, of which Jurgen Klopp’s side have to win just two to seal the title, behind closed doors.
Jason McAteer is fearing that 30,000 Liverpool fans could turn up outside Anfield if they win the league behind closed doors
Matches are likely to be played behind closed doors and games might not be played at Anfield if teams agree to play at specific neutral venues
Former Red McAteer believes games must be played at neutral venues as a precaution.
‘Just before lockdown, my worry about Liverpool being so close to mathematically winning the title was that crowds would have built up outside Anfield, especially if the league had continued in empty stadiums,’ he told Gambling.com.
‘If Liverpool had won the league at Anfield with nobody inside, 30,000 people or more would have shown up outside the ground to celebrate because at the time we weren’t all aware of how bad this situation was.
‘Everyone’s been waiting for this moment for 30 years, there’s been all the build-up, it was almost confirmed, everyone was on a high and nobody wanted to miss out. There would have been a lot of people out on the streets to celebrate.
Former Red McAteer (right) believes games should be played at neutral venues as a precaution
‘Even though we’re all more knowledgeable on the virus now, that could still happen. So one way to avoid that problem would be to stage games in neutral venues, I can get behind that.
‘But from a Liverpool perspective, if they were to continue their games at Anfield and win the title there, people will congregate. It would be impossible to police. From a safety point of view, we can’t risk that.’
McAteer’s concerns come just a week after city mayor Joe Anderson drew criticism from the club for calling for the season to end to avoid fans congregating when Liverpool finally lift the league title.
He told BBC Sport: ‘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.
Joe Anderson fears that the situation could become farcical if ‘Project Restart’ goes ahead
Plans are being drawn up to play the remaining nine games, of which Jurgen Klopp’s side have to win just two to seal the title, behind closed doors
‘I think it would be really difficult for the police to keep people apart and maintain social distancing if they were going to celebrate outside Anfield, it would be farcical.
‘The police are right to be concerned about that as we are here in the city, and public health officials are also concerned about that, so we’d ask the Premier League and government to take into account all of these concerns that we have.’
But Liverpool expressed their disappointment in a statement, saying: ‘As a club, we are aware of and disappointed by comments attributed to mayor Joe Anderson.
‘As well as a lack of evidence to support such claims, we would also point to recent discussions with mayor Anderson relating to the possibility of any behind-closed-doors football, which concluded that it is important that key stakeholders across the city continue to engage and work collaboratively.
‘In recent weeks, we have engaged with supporters’ groups who have informed us of their determination to respect social distancing measures and, in the event of a resumption of football being announced, we would continue to work with them and other key stakeholders in keeping with our collective desire to achieve this crucial objective.
‘As part of our ongoing operations, we are in regular contact with the mayor and his office and we hope these conversations can continue.
‘In the meantime, our primary focus remains responding to the humanitarian crisis which continues to unfold and in particular providing ongoing support to various NHS initiatives and those experiencing food poverty and social isolation.’
Spirit of Shankley released a statement saying they were ‘angered’ by Anderson’s comments
Premier League clubs will speak again on Monday to try to find a way forward for Project Restart, with the resumption of top-flight football in England on a knife edge.
Although all clubs say they want to complete the 2019-20 season, there are a number of hurdles that must be cleared before they can look with confidence at starting again on June 12.
There are serious misgivings among the players about the safety of contact sport during the coronavirus pandemic, while the bottom six clubs in the division fear the plan to play at neutral grounds puts them at greater risk of relegation.
These are just two of the many matters to be considered, with testing and Government policy also high on the agenda, while bosses look closely at how successful the return of the Bundesliga – planned for May 16 – proves to be.
Earlier on Friday, culture secretary Oliver Dowden warned the game is yet to get the ‘green light’ to return with new talks between government and the Premier League arranged for next Thursday.
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