A decision on whether to allow Sunday week’s Merseyside derby to go ahead at Goodison Park has been postponed after safety officials said they needed more time to study documentation.
A meeting of the safety advisory group was convened on Monday as anticipated, but a final decision was delayed because not all the relevant information was available. It was agreed to try again on Friday, although Liverpool’s mayor, Joe Anderson, believes the process could be accelerated. “We are hopeful that if the requested information is with us we can arrange a meeting of the ground safety group for Wednesday morning, to then announce a final decision in everyone’s interest,” he said. “When we met on Monday to discuss the matter we did not have everything we needed.”
Liverpool could theoretically clinch their first title in 30 years at an empty Goodison on 21 June, which is one reason the head of football policing, Mark Roberts, has suggested the game might be moved to a neutral venue.
The fear was that fans would congregate in nearby streets and parks in contravention of physical-distancing rules, though the Merseyside police subsequently confirmed they had no objection to the game taking place at its designated venue and were confident it could be supervised safely.
Anderson himself originally doubted whether Liverpool fans could be relied upon to stay indoors and postpone any celebration, though he has since had a change of heart and now supports both Merseyside clubs in their desire to keep hold of all their remaining games.
“We are in a better place [with the pandemic] than we were four weeks ago,” he said. “We have had the opportunity to speak to the fans and the clubs have helped us get the message across that supporters need to stay away. Both clubs have made that clear so I now have no objection to the derby being played at Goodison and Liverpool’s games being played at Anfield.”