The Premier League continues to be the “best league in Europe,” says Chief Govt Masters
Champions Manchester City finished 20 points ahead of fifth-placed Leicester last season
The Premier League remains the “most competitive league in Europe”, says its CEO Richard Masters.
Masters has rejected the idea of England’s top clubs pulling away from the rest of the league.
Champions Manchester City finished 20 points from fifth last season – while Liverpool were 37 points from fifth when they were at the top in 2019-20.
“I don’t think that’s the case,” said Masters, asking if the gap between the top clubs and the rest is widening.
“It has certainly not yet been proven.”
Masters, who took up his position in the Premier League in December 2019, added: “I expect this season to be competitive and there are a number of clubs looking to get into these European places.
“We know the difference that can affect your finances and your future as a whole. The Premier League is the most competitive league in Europe. We want it to stay that way. I think it still is.”
Two days until the start of the 2021-22 Premier League season, Masters spoke in a far-reaching interview with BBC Sport’s Simon Stone, in which he talked about issues such as players taking the knee, online racist abuse, fans returning to the world Stages and Covid-19 protocols.
Premier League newcomers Brentford will raise the curtain on the new campaign when they welcome Arsenal to the Brentford Community Stadium on Friday. About 300,000 fans will take part in the opening program with 10 games over the weekend.
“It’s a momentous moment,” said Masters of the fans’ return.
“We are all really looking forward to it. Lots of people put a lot of hard work into reaching this moment.
“It feels like a return to some kind of normalcy. We will always be careful and put safety first.”
“Players want to go down on their knees”
Players began to get on their knees in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in June 2020 as the Premier League returned from its 100-day pandemic-enforced hiatus.
In February, Crystal Palace striker Wilfried Zaha had said he would stop taking the knee, describes the gesture as “humiliating”.
Zaha’s decision came less than a week after Brentford said they would quit because they felt the gesture had lost its effect while Parts of the English fans booed players who kneel on their knees at the EM 2020.
But earlier this month it was confirmed that players from all 20 Premier League clubs will continue to kneel on this or boo as a symbol of their “unity against all forms of racism”.
“We have made it very clear that anti-discrimination is a massive priority for the Premier League,” he said.
“We will not tolerate racism on our premises or online. It should not be part of the life of a professional footballer to accept online abuse.”
“I think taking a knee is a really strong, unifying symbol. The players want to do it and we like to support that. I really don’t see why anyone would want to protest or boo at it.”
“My hope and expectation is that the vast majority of supporters will support it. We’ll wait and see this weekend. Obviously it’s been going on for a year with no supporters in the ground.
“We’re not too concerned about negative reactions because we think it’s the right thing to do.”
In February, Crystal Palace striker Wilfried Zaha said he would stop kneeling before the games
“We have to keep putting pressure on social media companies”
Masters added that the Premier League is working to stamp out racist abuse online after targeting English players Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho following the Euro 2020 final.
“We need to keep putting pressure on the social media companies – we’re doing as much as we can,” said Masters.
“We have a team of people who work with the police and the clubs to pursue this abusive news, identify the people behind it and hold them accountable.
“We’ll keep trying. We have the government’s online security law. We also need your help to try to deal with this problem.”
“A loud atmosphere in a safe environment”
While last season was mostly played in empty stadiums, the easing of Covid-19 restrictions in England means bigger attendance numbers are expected during the coming season, although some clubs request it Have proof of negative Covid-19 tests or full vaccination status.
Masters says the Premier League is expecting “clear guidance” from the government regarding Covid-19 certifications, but says their main goal is to create a “noisy atmosphere in a safe environment” with a new code of conduct for followers, including face masks and signage and various hygiene practices.
“We are obviously working towards the possibility of Covid-19 certification in the fall,” he said.
“This is what is happening in the clubs now, to prepare for it. The fans should expect a difference from the normal process.”
Admitting virus outbreaks could disrupt the game plan, he added, “We are maintaining logs on the training ground and game day to try to stop this transmission and minimize the possibility of disruption.”