Goodison Park will host the Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton, while the Reds have also been given the all clear to lift the Premier League title at Anfield
Anfield Liverpool and Everton have been cleared to play their remaining Premier League games behind closed doors at Anfield and Goodison Park – meaning the Reds will get to lift the Premier League title at their home ground and the Merseyside derby will not have to be held at a neutral venue. A local Safety Advisory Group – formed of representatives from both clubs as well as Liverpool City Council, Merseyside Police and fan unions – gave their support for the derby, on Sunday June 21, to be held in the city on Wednesday.
There were fears the match may have to be hosted away from Merseyside because jubilant Liverpool fans may congregate outside of Goodison.
Several games across the country were highlighted by Mark Roberts, the police chief in charge of football in England, for the risk of having crowds gathering outside, including all of Liverpool’s matches until they are crowned Premier League champions.
The Reds are six points away from winning the league for the first time in 30 years and if reigning champions Manchester City lose to Arsenal on Wednesday June 17, Liverpool can end their lengthy wait for a championship by beating neighbours Everton four days later.
Wembley Stadium, St Mary’s Stadium and Villa Park were all mooted as potential neutral grounds at which the derby could be held if it was deemed unsafe for the game to be played at its original venue.
But after getting the green light from the Safety Advisory Group the fixture will be held Everton’s home stadium as normal, with supporters from both clubs reminded by the authorities to stay at home and prevent any potential further spread of the coronavirus.
Liverpool’s COVID-19 death toll one of the highest in the United Kingdom per data from the Office for National Statistics.
Councillor Wendy Simon, deputy mayor of Liverpool and chair of the Ground Safety Advisory Group (GSAG), said: “We are satisfied that the considerable evidence and guidance provided by the Government, Everton and Liverpool Football Clubs, Public Health colleagues and Merseyside Police will ensure that the outstanding fixtures for the 2019/20 Premier League season can be safely and securely played at both Goodison Park and Anfield.
“A lot of factors have been taken into consideration by the GSAG, especially the safety of the players, match officials and staff in attendance at both stadia.
“We are confident the measures in place will allow the matches to be held behind closed doors without any detrimental impact to all concerned and recommend to the city council that the safety certificates for both grounds be amended to allow this to happen.
“Im sure fans of both teams will welcome this recommendation and, subject to ratification, we look forward to watching the first of these matches – the Merseyside Derby on 21 June – which will be broadcast live on free-to-air TV for the first time since the Premier League began.
“We would also advise that everyone, wherever they may be watching these fixtures, to strongly adhere to the guidance on social distancing around the current COVID-19 pandemic and for not only these matches but the wider relaxation measures anticipated for the city.”
Liverpool, whose title triumph is now inevitable given they need two wins from nine matches and have won 27 of 29 so far this term, will also get to lift the trophy in their final home match of the season against Chelsea on Saturday July 18.
In a statement, the European champions said: “We would like to thank the chair, the elected members of GSAG, and all those people who have been working tirelessly in the background for their support as we take the next step to completing the 2019-20 Premier League season.”
Their matches against Crystal Palace (Wednesday June 24), Aston Villa (Saturday July 4), Burnley (Saturday July 11) and Chelsea (Saturday July 18) will all now be held at Anfield.
While Everton’s matches against Liverpool (Sunday June 21), Leicester City (Wednesday July 1), Southampton (Wednesday July 8), Aston Villa (Wednesday July 15) and Bournemouth (Sunday July 26) will all take place at Goodison as originally planned.
Merseyside Police assistant chief constable Rob Carden said of the decision: “We note the decision of the Ground Safety Advisory Group to agree that the outstanding fixtures for the 2019/20 Premier League season can be safely and securely played at Goodison and Anfield.
“Working together with both teams, Liverpool City Council, Spirit of Shankly, Blue Union, and other supporter groups we want to ensure that everyone enjoys the game from the safety of their own home.
“In relation to crime and disorder we have no objections to any of the Everton, or Liverpool, home fixtures being played at their respective grounds.
“The main issues of concern was always going to be public health. It is not the role of the police to make operational decisions on the basis of public health.
“We are guided by experts in public health and the Government. We accept the decision of the GSAG in this respect and will work closely with our partners to play our part in delivering safe events.
“We are still in unprecedented times due to the COVID-19 pandemic and there are strong concerns in Merseyside, and the wider North West, due to the fact that the R rate here is still higher than the rest of the country.
“For that reason we would urge supporters to do the right thing – stay at home, enjoy the opportunity to watch every second of the game free of charge on your own TV, in your own living room and keep yourself, your family, friends and neighbours safe.”
Everton and Liverpool supporters groups Blue Union and Spirit of Shankly said: “The Spirit of Shankly and the Blue Union welcome the news that games are to be played on Merseyside.
“Building on the magnificent community work both sets of fans have done throughout this pandemic, we are confident that supporters of these two great clubs will respect safety advice about avoiding visiting stadia where home and away fixtures are taking place.
“We fully understand the importance of lockdown as a measure to control COVID-19 and would encourage fans to stay away from any stadium and avoid congregating in numbers.”
The Merseyside derby will be broadcast free to air by Sky Sports, with the first Premier League match in three months for both Everton and Liverpool kicking off at 7pm.