Gary Neville 2018-19Getty

'How many footballers have to die?' - Neville calls out Premier League for prioritising money over player safety

Gary Neville says that the financial aspect of football is leading towards hasty discussions of the game's return as the former Manchester United star asked how many people have to die before those in charge admit that playing is dangerous.

World football is currently at a halt due to the spread of coronavirus, with the French, Belgian and Dutch leagues already making the decision to call off their respective 2019-20 campaigns.

In England, there is hope that the league can resume and the season can be completed, with Premier League clubs set to meet on Friday to discuss plans to resume play in June.

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Neville, however, says that the idea of returning to play so soon has potential for disaster, and feels those in charge must look at safety, not economics.

"The FIFA medical officer said that football should not take place before September. I think if it was a non-economic decision there would be no football for months," Neville said on Sky Sports' The Football Show

"People are now assessing risk. How many people have to die playing football in the Premier League before it becomes unpalatable? One? One player? One member of staff goes into intensive care? What risk do we have to take? The discussion is purely economic."

If and when the league does return, matches will likely have to be played behind closed doors initially with players and staff undergoing extensive testing.

The proposed timeline would see clubs back in full training by May 18, with some top-flight teams such as Arsenal, Tottenham, Everton and West Ham already easing their way back with sessions this week.

Neville says that the decision to push back football's return is clouded by monetary concerns more than reason.

"There will be people who will view it as a risk factor," he added. "Players themselves will want to go and play. Players at the lower levels will want to go play and 1,400 players are out of contract. 

"Clubs have huge investment in this season. Think about what’s at stake for Leeds, it’s absolutely massive. There are big prizes up for grabs. There’s huge economic loss. It clouds people’s minds in terms of the risk that they’re willing to take.

"There are some players with conditions that could be more at risk of coronavirus than others and that is something that needs to be assessed.

"If health comes first, there is only one outcome at this moment in time. How many players have got asthma? How many players have diabetes? Have they assessed all of these things and are they willing to put those people at risk? 

"If they are, we’ll all turn up and commentate on those matches. Fingers crossed, every day we’ll not have an incident which would be one of our players or a member of staff falling ill."