GARY NEVILLE believes the Premier League is trying to blackmail clubs into playing again – by threatening them with relegation if they refuse.
Top-flight chiefs will meet on Monday to discuss how best to implement Project Restart and complete the season, currently suspended due to the coronavirus crisis.
A number of clubs at the bottom of the table are said to be against plans to play matches at neutral venues.
But they have been warned if they do not agree, the season could be scrapped, which could result in them facing the drop.
Outspoken TV pundit and Salford owner Neville said: “You can call them negotiations between the clubs or you can call them blackmail, whichever way you want to put it.
“There is no doubt we’ve got a divided Premier League at this moment in time in respect of what the clubs want and that isn’t healthy going into this situation.
“When you think about the message from day one in this global pandemic, everyone talked about a social approach, being together and be kind.
“But football is not a nice place at the moment, it is full of self-interest.
“They are somehow trying to get to an agreed position but it really is getting dirty behind the scenes – that we’ll relegate you if you don’t play.
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“What about health? It is unsavoury the way football is perceived at this moment in time by people outside.
“The clubs at the bottom were always going to get bullied by the rest of the league into playing.”
The Prem’s bottom six clubs are believed to have told league bosses they will only play at neutral venues IF relegation is scrapped this season.
But former Manchester United and England defender Nev said: “I don’t think it’s a fair approach to avoid relegation.
"Ultimately if we’re playing football there has to be something on it or there is no point in us all turning up.
“Fans pay to watch football matches and we watch football matches because we want a competitive element.
“We haven't got franchise football in England thankfully, we have promotion and relegation and it is one of the things that drives our game and makes it as competitive as it is.
“And we can’t remove those things, I’m certainly not for that.”
The Bundesliga is set to return later this month after being given the green light by government leaders and medical chiefs.
And Neville has urged Premier League execs to take German lessons to get top-flight football playing again in this country too.
Speaking on Sky’s Football Show, he said: “The Premier League will go into training when the Bundesliga are already playing matches.
“I’d hope two or three from the Premier League, including medical professionals, will be on their way over to Germany now to actually see how it operates, understand how it’s going and be in regular consultations with the club doctors over there.
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