Football clubs are preparing to play again in what, to my mind, seems a crazy timeframe.
According to BBC Sport, football could resume in the Premier League as early as June 8th, as the country seems to just assume that lockdown is nearing it’s end.
I’m sure that we’ve all noticed the numbers of people out and about increasing. As a key worker, I still have to go to work and I have seen more cars on the road and people in the streets over this last weekend than since the lockdown began. On Sunday morning, 300 odd people were queuing outside the B&Q store in Great Yarmouth awaiting a 9 am opening. Were they all there for essential shopping? I seriously doubt it. More like a case of if you open a shop people will think “Oh, B&Q are open, that must mean it’s okay to go there.”
Government figures show the number of hospital deaths seem to be decreasing but I cannot see that anyone can say we have reached the peak until in say, six months time, we can look back with some security and say Oh yes, that’s when the peak was.
West Ham, Arsenal and Brighton have reportedly opened their training grounds up for players to train individually today and the eagle eyed press have spotted players from these clubs arriving.
The government have reportedly held discussions about elite sport being good for public morale and this coming Friday, the Premier League stakeholders will meet via video link to discuss options. These options include playing games behind closed doors at a select number of venues deemed to be neutral grounds.
There are, as I have written several times, endless complications to all this, including whether or not the government’s Five Tests are met. These are:
- Making sure the NHS can cope
- A sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rate
- Rate of infection decreasing to manageable levels
- Ensuring supply of tests and PPE can meet future demand
- Being confident any adjustments would not risk a second peak
There are some good quotes here in the BBC article from the World players’ union Fifpro, who say that the return of football risks sending a “bad signal“.
“There is a huge logistical and medical/scientific question about testing and protocols but also a social one,” said secretary-general Jonas Baer-Hoffmann.
“We need guidance and protocols on how to return in a healthy and safe manner. Football is a contact sport and we feel very high protection standards are required.
“Are we sending the right message to society, and are we encouraging a healthy return to normal life? Or are we sending a bad signal that football has different rules to the rest of the world?”
I can’t help but think that money is the driving force behind this rush to resume playing a game that has long since ceased to be a sport. It is a money maker, a cash cow for TV and betting companies now and the drive to not re-pay the revenue money to TV companies if the season had to be abandoned is, in my opinion, key in all this.
We’ll see what happens but June 8th still seems wildly optimistic when you hear that the Netherlands have a social gatherings ban announced till September 1st and that in France a similar ban will be in place until at least July 15th.
I know they are talking about games being played behind closed doors but a group of 11 people who don’t live in the same household would not be allowed to be together in public as this would contravene government rules and yet, in professional sport, that would seem to be okay because it lifts morale and will cost a lot of money if it doesn’t happen.
One rule for one…
I also know that each team will have to have a lot more people around than just the 11 players in the team. There will be coaches, medical staff and substitutes to also consider, as well as the referees and their assistants and that is before you even consider that there will be two teams.
I write a football blog here, so you would expect me to perhaps be a big advocate of getting back to playing as soon as possible. My thought process though is that if more people have died (in hospital) than could fill the MEN Arena (21,000 capacity) in less than 60 days because of the pandemic in the UK alone, why risk anything that could add a single digit to that terrible toll?