PREMIER LEAGUE chiefs have officially written games on neutral grounds into the rulebook for the first time.
But the 2020-21 rulebook makes NO mention of any plans if a Covid-19 resurgence means the season cannot be played to a conclusion.
League bosses have now published their handbook containing the full league rules for the new campaign.
Two new clauses make specific mention of games being played behind closed doors and, if necessary, at neutral stadiums.
Rule C.1B states: “Where the home club is unable to secure a safety certificate in respect of that specific league match, that league match will be played on a neutral ground, the date, the time and the venue of which shall be determined by the board.”
An additional guidance note adds: “Rule A.1.86 defines the home club as ‘the club at whose stadium a league match is or was or should be or should have been played’.”
The issue saw a successful backlash from the Prem clubs during the shutdown as they forced through a change in plans to restart the league by playing all matches in six chosen neutral venues.
Clubs led by Brighton and Aston Villa, but swiftly backed unanimously, won the battle to play on home soil dispute initial police suggestions that they feared crowds gathering outside grounds.
But by including the provision in the rulebook, league bosses – with the approval of the clubs – have signalled they will be willing to take all and any necessary steps that allow them to play the season out.
That also explains why there is no specific mention of “curtailment” options – despite Prem chief executive Richard Masters confirming last week that he wants an agreement soon.
The rules simply state that “the club which is at the top of the table at the end of the season shall be the league champions” with the bottom three clubs “relegated to the Football League” without confirming what constitutes the final table.
The last debate saw the 20 clubs at an impasse over quantifying the number of games that had to be played for a points per game calculation to be utilised in the event of non-completion of the season.
Masters said: “There’s no agreement yet. We had a very good discussion last week amongst clubs looking at this.
“When we faced the issues in March and April we all know that the rule book did not adequately deal with the situation so you want to add more certainty.
“What the clubs did agree with was a set of principles which would make curtailment an option of last resort.
“That’s important. Finishing the season is the Number One priority.
“But the issue of a cut-off point or a number of matches to be played for a season to be valid was not agreed.”