Exclusive: Leeds United and Derby County said to be stunned over 'proposal' to move their match to Southampton

Sam Dean
Leeds United's Kemar Roofe in action with Derby County's Richard Keogh - Action Images via Reuters/Craig Brough 

Derby County and Leeds United are said to have been left stunned after it was allegedly proposed by the head of UK’s football police that their Championship match should be relocated more than 160 miles away in Southampton.

Mark Roberts, the national lead officer in UKFPU, is understood to have identified the game as “high-risk” and suggested that it be played at Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium, infuriating both clubs who have vigorously opposed the plan.

Roberts has strongly denied the allegation, describing it as "categorically untrue".

Leeds, the Championship leaders, and Derby both declined to comment but multiple sources have said the plan was put forward.

It is also understood that on Thursday night Derbyshire Constabulary informed Roberts, the deputy chief constable of South Yorkshire police, that the game would remain at Pride Park.

Derbyshire Constabulary’s football unit has agreed to review security for the match, which could be pivotal in the outcome of the Championship title race, but insist it is not necessary for it to be moved away from Pride Park. St Mary’s is 166 miles away from Derby’s ground and over four hours’ drive for Leeds.

It is understood that Derby’s meeting with local rivals Nottingham Forest was also initially proposed as another high-risk game which should move to a neutral venue, but that move has also been rejected.

Roberts has already struggled to succeed with plans to move games at Premier League level, with Merseyside Police objecting to the idea of moving Liverpool’s clash with Everton.

The English Football League has so far been strong in its insistence that all remaining league matches should be played at their usual home and away venues, unless they are not permitted by the relevant local authorities.

The long-standing rivalry between Leeds and Derby intensified last season following the ‘Spygate’ scandal, for which Leeds were fined £200,000.

Derby then defeated Leeds in the Championship play-off semi-final, with some of their players celebrating by mimicking binoculars in reference to the “spying” controversy.

Before football’s suspension, the match at Pride Park was originally scheduled for April 25, meaning it would have been the penultimate fixture of Leeds’ season as they chase promotion.

Roberts issued a statement on Thursday which read: “The suggestions put to us are categorically untrue.

“Discussions with the English Football League are not as progressed as they are with the Premier League, where we have reached an agreed way forward.

“I am still seeking views from forces about any games they may wish to seek a neutral venue for, and at this time have no definitive list of proposals.

“As such, no discussions have been started with the EFL about any potential neutral venues.”