Be careful what you wish for, EPL clubs: Richard Buxton
Every side has something to lose and increasingly little to gain from Project Restart
Project Restart teeters on the brink of collapse and risks taking the English Premier League down with it.
Today's meeting between the league's 20 member clubs is set to determine whether the 2019/20 season finally returns from the Covid-19 pandemic sooner rather than later.
Resistance from its bottom six teams to the latest round of proposals and playing games at government-approved "neutral" venues suggests the deadlock will not be broken anytime soon.
Senior figures at Brighton & Hove Albion, Watford and Aston Villa have all publicly expressed concerns about Project Restart in the past week, while fellow strugglers West Ham United, Bournemouth and Norwich City continue to harbour reservations about a mid-June resumption.
Losing home advantage stands at the heart of the bottom six's complaints and with good reason; all of them have fared better at home than away, many by a big margin.
Watford chairman Scott Duxbury argued that they could not have ended Liverpool's 44-match unbeaten run without playing at Vicarage Road and believes that finishing the season in the stadium's familiar surroundings, even behind closed doors, offers them a fighting chance.
But the Hornets and their counterparts should be careful what they wish for.
Attempting to delay the inevitable will see the prospect of remaining fixtures being decided on a points-per-game system, which will still lead to the inevitability of relegation.
Any hopes that the bottom three sides would be spared from bowing out of the top flight were sacrificed long before the EPL became the money-spewing entity that now stands before the world, with the Football Association refusing to use its powers to alter the game's integrity.
Change, however, is still looming as football adjusts to "the new normal" and those at the business end of the table need to be just as wary of what exactly they are signing up for.
Playing "ghost games" at state-sanctioned stadiums does not remove the risk associated with the spread of the coronavirus.
If anything, it exacerbates it, with fans as likely to congregate outside St George's Park and the other approved venues as if their team were playing on home soil.
So heavily subscribed are supporters to the mantra that "football without fans is nothing" and similarly hooked on the EPL's bespoke product that some will invariably make the pilgrimage to stand outside wherever matches are taking place, purely to share in the experience.
From all sides, self-interest is dictating the league's planned return. The British government now expects its flagship sport to raise the nation's spirits just weeks after they were scapegoating players and clubs alike for supposedly not doing enough in helping tackle the coronavirus crisis.
Avoiding the £1 billion (S$1.75b) hit that a failure to fulfil the season would incur has led to a host of radical ideas, including breaking the sanctity of the dressing room by planting cameras inside to eavesdrop on previously unheard team talks and half-time inquisitions.
Those signing up to the new sanitised set-up for EPL games are also throwing themselves at the mercy of its arbiters.
In doing so, the corpse of Game 39 may soon find itself revived.
Every club has something to lose and increasingly little to gain from this situation.
One false move from either end of the table will bring the league's house of cards crashing down.