Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that – unfortunately, it seems the Corona virus has failed to concur with that famous Bill Shankly quote. The increasing realisation that the global pandemic caused by Covid-19 is going to lead to increasingly more stringent measures, which will make any notion of normal life all but impossible. That in essence almost certainly means football will not be resuming in April given that some models indicate that peak cases of those getting the virus in the UK may not even be reached until June.
No definitive decisions have been made as yet but the word from football executives running the various leagues is that we are likely going to see the football season brought to a premature end. The mechanics of carrying on and playing games behind closed doors it seems has become impractical as the risk to players and staff being infected and then entire clubs being held in quarantine for 14 days makes planning near impossible – especially as clubs could face more than one spell in quarantine if a single player or member of staff tests positive. Another point also made to the footballing authorities by clubs is that players who face 14 days in quarantine would then require a further 14 days to get match fit – meaning players would face an enforced break of 28 days. OK, some teams may be lucky and avoid such scenarios but if the objective is to try and complete the season for all teams, then it wouldn’t take many outbreaks for any league to be unable to reach a conclusion. Indeed, that conclusion would almost certainly need to happen before the end of June as the contracts of many players from each club also end. Incidentally, what about the 72-year old manager of Crystal Palace, Roy Hodgson? Will he now have to self isolate and give up taking control of team affairs!
The question is therefore not about when the decision is made but how? Some clubs favour the season being declared null and void – especially those facing relegation! Still, it’s hard to see how teams could be penalised with relegation as it would essentially be in breach of the rules and regulations of the competition if it was sanctioned with a quarter of the season left unplayed. The threat of legal action would be real from clubs who could easily argue that they hadn’t ‘finished the season’ in a relegation place. Therefore one of the solutions being muted is not to penalise those clubs in a relegation place but to just reward clubs currently occupying the automatic promotion places. That would see Leeds and West Brom being promoted to form a 22-club Premier League and them being replaced in the Championship by the top two in League One (currently Coventry and Rotherham). Although, even that may eventually prove to be difficult to get agreement on.
However, it’s by no means certain that even next season will be safe from Corona virus disruption as many scientists predict even if cases fall away by late summer, it will likely return again in the winter. The hope is that governments will be better prepared to control a second outbreak but the prospects of when a vaccine will be available are not clear – it normally would take 18 months but even if that’s fast-tracked it would be pushing it to be ready before winter. In any case, the resumption of football or indeed any sport is not the pressing priority of any nation just now. The issue is about reducing the risk that health services become unable to cope and avoiding reaching the death toll of the worse case scenarios – not to mention the risk to the livelihoods of large numbers of those employed in businesses and industries.
So football is not a matter of life and death, it’s just a sport that many either enjoy or suffer as part of their weekly fix. As we embark on what will be a somewhat surreal year ahead, nothing is certain. Many are now being told they may need to spend the next four months in self isolation or risk succumbing to the virus with no cure. The best analogy is probably that the world is essentially at war, but with a disease. Governments and nations everywhere are preparing to do whatever it takes to keep casualties to a minimum.
Therefore, at this moment it’s hard to see when arguing over football tactics, team selections or transfers will once more become a meaningful topic of discussion. So like many aspects of life, football has suffered a heavy defeat from Covid 19 but will no doubt resume at some point in the future. In the meantime feel free to discuss any matters of concern with the Diasboro community or simply pop in to let us know you’re staying safe and healthy!