The ‘debate’ is tedious, to say the least. Every day there are new reports on how or when the Premier League might re-start. Then there’s the ‘null and void’ crowd…
Let’s get one thing very clear from the outset: null and void will not happen. That cannot be made more clear.
Null and void is literally the only option that’s not available as UEFA have said that doing so would mean the league(s) would not be able to have teams in its 2020-21 European competitions.
Not completing the season, as per what France have so far said they will do, would mean a points per game situation likely determining the league table – and therefore Liverpool winning the league.
However, it’s not in the interests of teams currently in the Premier League‘s bottom three, or those just outside the European places, to agree to that. Clubs (multi-million-pound businesses) have their own vested interests that making such a decision is and will prove very difficult.
There are some football journalists who are being briefed by clubs with those vested interests, always un-named sources, never anybody speaking on the record. All these reports do is skew the perception of the situation. Null and void will not happen and ending the season early is highly unlikely too.
It’s also worth pointing out that those journalists who seem to have suddenly found their moral high ground would very quickly turn their attentions to writing about transfer stories and counting down to the new season if their apparent wish to end the current season occurred.
The reality is this: in a month’s time, mid-June – when the Premier League is looking at returning – the world will be in a new normal.
Those queues to get in Tesco aren’t going away any time soon. Those who can work from home will continue to do so. But the vast majority of those with jobs will be back at work.
In a post-corona age, things will be different for some time, years even. The world has changed and everyone needs to understand that and be flexible: the ‘ideal’ situation no longer exists.
Meanwhile, there appears to be clamour in some circles that next season (the one that hasn’t started yet) is more important than this season (the one that’s 75 percent completed and has all contractual obligations alongside it).
The reality is, this season must be finished.
The reality is that it is far easier to adapt a season that hasn’t even begun than a season that’s three-quarters of the way completed.
Even if football in the Premier League didn’t return until September, why is the new season more important than the current one? It isn’t. There’s literally no reason to think that than if you had a vested interest that the current season isn’t going the way you wanted it to.
So with all that in mind, here are the reasons that have been claimed as to why re-starting the current season isn’t possible, or is a bad idea, and why each one is flawed.
Use Of Neutral Stadiums
One rather vocal journalist against use the use of neutral stadiums claims it would be unfair on teams who would have home advantage in the scheduled fixtures.
Firstly, home advantage is hugely negated with no supporters present (more on that later).
Secondly, we’re in the midst of a pandemic and, as mentioned above, everyone needs to understand this and be somewhat flexible.
Indeed, neutral stadiums actually makes more sense in that it would mean fewer stadiums needing to be equipped and staffed for TV personnel etc, and would also greatly reduce the likelihood of fans congregating outside the stadium.
Neutral stadiums may or may not happen, but it’s far from a deal-breaker.
Lose a bit of home advantage or risk your club going bankrupt? Tough choice.
Players Out of Contract
It’s minor in the grand scheme of things. Players and clubs can either choose to have a temporary extension, or not.
It affects such a small percentage of players and, again, some flexibility is needed.
Of course, empty stadiums is far from ideal, but unless you are going to go over a year, possibly longer, without any football or sport then you need to accept that this will be the ‘new normal’ for the time being.
Already sports such as baseball have restarted in parts of Asia in empty stadiums. It’s the new normal for the world over.
If you’re so set against empty stadiums, you should probably start taking up something else other than football because a lot of clubs would be lost without any football being played for a year or more.
And those journalists who claim to be so against the idea of the Premier League returning would have no jobs either if the sport they write about doesn’t take place for a year or more.
This is another that people really aren’t understanding the reality of.
Testing is and will be more widely available in a month’s time. Already the UK government have opened testing to everyone who is a key worker and anyone who lives with them. The testing capability is there.
The Premier League can (and will have already sought to) buy the testing capacity privately. It will not be taking resources from the government.
(Side note: Just like PPE, it’s available if you actually source it.)
Things are moving fast in this situation and in a fortnight’s time testing will be viewed differently. There’s also the potential for antigen test to be available.
We’re talking about the Premier League returning in six weeks’ time, not tomorrow.
Games In Quick Succession
Probably the most flawed argument of the lot.
At the last World Cup, finalists France and Croatia played seven games in 29 days – so a game every 3.8 days.
The Premier League are talking about teams playing their remaining fixtures (for all-but four teams that’s nine games) in a six-week period.
So that’s a game, on average, every 4.6 days – more time between games than at a World Cup.
We’ve already seen FIFA propose allowing five substitutions per-game. This is such flexibility that the new normal requires.
Players In Hotels / Their Families
As above, it’s literally just like at a World Cup or Euros where players live in a hotel for a fortnight before the tournament then up to a month during, so six weeks in total.
Players don’t fly back from a World Cup to have dinner with their family, they won’t be doing that here either.
Yes, again, it’s not ideal but, again, ideal doesn’t exist in a post-corona world.
In mid-June, almost everyone will be back to work in some capacity. There will be adaptations and a ‘new normal’ but every government, especially the UK, is working towards such a plan.
Health Of Players
The elephant in the room, perhaps. However, it’s the reality for everyone who is and will be back working.
The reality – that word again – is that a footballer is at more risk if he stays at home with his family and goes to the local shops to get food, mixing with the general public, than if they are ‘quarantined’ at a hotel and tested regularly (as per the plans of the Premier League).
By June, the wider society will be mixing and lockdown restrictions eased. Are you more at risk seeing your friends and family who haven’t been tested, or mixing with only people who have been tested?
Yes, it’s not essential to have footballers performing for our entertainment, but then you could say it’s not essential for some kid to be selling you a hamburger because you can’t be bothered to cook and that thing you ordered online last week that made some bloke deliver to your house wasn’t essential either.
Non-essential shops will be open in June, some cafes will be open in the daytime. The ‘new normal’ will be here.
Adaptations will have to be made, just like they already have been over the past five weeks.
Football will adapt too because it simply has to – just like the rest of the world.