Premier League clubs to play on neutral grounds if games resume - sources

The 2019-20 Premier League season will be played to a conclusion behind closed doors at neutral venues if football can return safely, sources have told ESPN.

The move comes amid fears over mass gatherings of supporters, which was a key factor in the decision to abandon plans to play out the campaign on a home-and-away basis.

Following a video conference involving all 20 Premier League clubs on Friday, the determination to complete the season, which has been suspended since March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic, was re-stated by the league.

- Stream new episodes of ESPN FC Monday-Friday on ESPN+
- Stream every episode of 30 for 30: Soccer Stories on ESPN+
- Ogden: What the Premier League will look like after restart

Sources told ESPN earlier on Friday that the Premier League is set for a decisive vote on May 8 as talks continue over ways to finish the 2019-20 season.

During the Friday meeting, the government-backed plan for football to return this summer -- named Project Restart -- was laid out to clubs by the Premier League hierarchy and the criteria included the insistence that all of the remaining 92 fixtures must be played at neutral venues.

Sources have told ESPN that the venues include some current Premier League stadiums, Wembley Stadium and one other unnamed ground.

With issues such as relegation yet to be decided, and with Liverpool needing just two wins to clinch the club's first title since 1990, concerns over thousands of fans congregating outside their team's stadium for key games have led to the authorities ruling out the staging of home and away games.

The decision has also confirmed the reality that Liverpool will be unable to clinch the title at Anfield.

Sources have told ESPN that, with social distancing measures likely to be in place for months, the need for fans to stay at home is of paramount importance and that the selection of match venues would be made in order to ensure supporters do not travel to games.

The decision has opened up the prospect of fixtures such as Everton-versus-Liverpool being played at the likes of Wembley or Old Trafford, or Tottenham-versus-Manchester United being staged hundreds of miles away at Newcastle's St James' Park or Southampton's St Mary's Stadium.

Stadiums will also be selected due to their ability to ensure social distancing measures between players, staff and all other essential workers at the fixtures.

Secure perimeters around the stadium and the COVID-19 infection rate in the local area will also be factors in selecting grounds for fixtures.

The Premier League has ruled out the use of the National Football Centre at St George's Park for staging games, with stadiums the preferred and most suitable option.

While no date has been set by the Premier League for a resumption of the season, it is understood that early-June is the target if the U.K. government relaxes its current lockdown measures on May 7.