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United boss takes aim at restart rebels and warns relegation must be inevitable for three clubs

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Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward urged Premier League chief executives to accept that relegation was an inevitability for three clubs if the league was to fulfil its obligations as part of Project Restart, it has emerged.

United are among those leading clubs who feel there is no alternative to relegation when it comes to the agreements in place with the Football League as well as the broadcasters and that three clubs must be relegated whether or not the season is completed on the pitch.

The issue of relegation in the event of curtailment is now the key sticking point ahead of tomorrow's Premier League shareholders' meeting.

The chief executives and leading figures from the 20 clubs speak regularly on conference calls outside the aegis of the official shareholders' meetings with the Premier League executive team.

Woodward said to his fellow chief executives that it had to be accepted that there could be no prospect of voiding the relegation question and that there were other clubs in the league who could also potentially lose out if the season was to start and then be curtailed.

United trail Chelsea in fourth place by three points and are two ahead of Wolverhampton Wanderers in sixth. Given Manchester City's current Uefa ban, fifth place should still be enough to qualify for the Champions League.

Next week is the likely date for clubs to vote on the formula for curtailment in the event that the league, which resumes on June 17, is unable to be completed under the new UK government protocols permitting the return for elite sport.

Sky Sports reported on Monday that up to 10 unnamed clubs were prepared to vote against relegation in the event of curtailment.

United's position is that the league season should be completed and that relegation must remain.

Those clubs at the bottom of the league who'd like relegation cancelled believe there is support higher up the league for their position.

There's a concern that any attempt to block the 14 votes needed for a curtailment formula (points per game being the favoured option) will result in delays to the season restart, further rebates to broadcasters and potentially a legal case from promoted clubs denied their place. It may also sour the relationship between the majority of the league's leading clubs and those at the bottom.

Clubs have begun considering how reduced numbers of fans might be accommodated next season, when neutral venues could remain as a back-up option to complete fixtures.

Southampton chief executive Martin Semmens said it was important to start "to imagine how we could bring our fans back to watch the team" and outlined some of the future options.

"Everybody (across society) is having to reinvent what they are doing. So when it comes to next season, whether we've got 50 fans in the boxes on their own, or 5,000 fans allowed in, whether we have to create bubbles where we can watch the game. There will be a way of finding solutions."

Meanwhile, the English FA will not take disciplinary action against any player who takes a knee as part of the anti-racism protests after the death in police custody of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

It comes as DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle United's American defender, said his grandfather is "glad" he does not live in the Us as he would fear for his grandson's life "as a young black man".

The outrage over Floyd's death has escalated, with the FA saying it will take a "common-sense approach" to any protests and players also unlikely to face action if they display solidarity messages on T-shirts.

The laws of the game prohibit "any political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images", but the authorities accept that supporting #BlackLivesMatter is a clear issue of anti-discrimination, not political.

In Germany, there have been warnings of sanctioning players who use celebrations to highlight the death of Floyd. England's Jadon Sancho was booked after revealing a "Justice for George Floyd" message on his T-shirt during Dortmund's game against Paderborn. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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