Derbyshire Constabulary have confirmed that initial plans to move Derby County's Championship game against Leeds United to Southampton have been rejected and revealed its desire for that match, and another potential high risk clash with Nottingham Forest, to remain at Pride Park.
Telegraph Sport reported last night that Mark Roberts, the head of UK's football police, had proposed that the potentially pivotal match against Leeds should be played at Southampton's St. Mary's Stadium, infuriating both clubs who have vigorously opposed the plan.
Leeds, the Championship leaders, are targeting a return to the Premier League after a 16-year exile and their game at Pride Park has been classed as "high-category" due to their position in the table and the historic rivalry between the two clubs.
It is alleged that Roberts, the deputy chief constable of South Yorkshire Police, wanted to move the game to a neutral venue, which was understood to be Southampton's St. Mary's Stadium. Roberts issued a statement on Thursday night insisting that the story was "categorically untrue".
Derbyshire Constabulary have since released a short statement confirming that they expect the match to be played at Derby's stadium.
A meeting will be held with the relevant local authorities, including the Safety Advisory Group (SAG), later this month but it is understood that Derby County are confident the game will go ahead as planned at their own ground.
The statement read: “Derbyshire Constabulary – like every force in the UK – was asked to give its initial opinion by the UK Football Policing Unit [UKFPU] on the risk posed by any of the rescheduled EFL games left in this season.
“The UKFPU is the conduit between UK police forces and football’s governing bodies and has a key role in the discussions around how to safely resume the season. While the UKFPU speaks on behalf of forces with the governing bodies the final decision on how fixtures are policed remains with local forces.
“Two of the highest category games — involving Leeds United and Nottingham Forest — were fixtures that the force initially deemed as potentially requiring them to be played at a neutral venue.
“Following a conversation with the club, in which a number of points were discussed, at this time the Constabulary is not proposing the use of neutral venues. All proposals for match arrangements will need to be reviewed at a meeting of the Safety Advisory Group to be held in coming days.
“The force will continue to review all fixtures based on intelligence, working closely with the club and the SAG.
“The Constabulary’s singular aim is to ensure the safety of players, fans and the wider public due to the current Covid-19 outbreak and support our colleagues in the NHS to prevent further spread of the virus.
“Officers will continue to work with the clubs involved, the UKFPU and other partners to ensure the safe resumption of football in the UK.”
Before football’s suspension, the match at Pride Park was scheduled for April 25, meaning it would have been the penultimate fixture of Leeds’ season as they chase promotion.