THEY say turkeys don’t vote for Christmas and there’s an element of that in the posturing around “Project Restart”, a table-thumping marketing slogan that fits nicely into the Coronavirus narrative.
Naturally, those that have something to lose in continuing the Premier League programme from where it stopped are less enthused than the mid-table men of mediocrity, hence the bottom clubs are against neutral venues and would be quite happy if the season was abandoned and we reassemble (with masks and our two-metre tape measures) once the mathematicians have produced a graph showing the infection rate and death toll have both peaked.
Steve Parish of Crystal Palace, speaking in a variety of publications, has urged caution and stated he believes that restarting the season “may be beyond us”. Brighton’s medical report may also encourage people not to leap headlong into a resumption of combat. A third player recently tested positive and this has fuelled more opposition for the project.
Rod Liddle of the Sunday Times reminded us not everything about the Premier is an “untrammelled delight”. From the almost mandatory minute’s silence at every game, part of the “Dianafication of public life”, to Jürgen Klopp’s unearthly smile from his brilliant white teeth and the woke, leftish sensibilities of Pep Guardiola, Liddle is not alone in his irritation. “It would not surprise me if the Premier League demands that matches are stopped halfway through so that players can line-up and give a round of applause to NHS staff,” said Liddle.
Also from the Times’ stable, David Walsh wrote that the virus has exposed the fragility of the business. “Championship clubs spend £ 1.06 of every £ 1 they bring in… ‘Annual income 20 pounds, annual expenditure 19 and six, result happiness. Annual income 20 pounds, annual expenditure 20 pounds ought and six, result misery,’ Charles Dickens wrote in David Copperfield,” he noted. Walsh added that football’s model has to change, especially at those clubs where they gamble money they haven’t got. “Perhaps the time has come for Leagues one and two to evolve into regional divisions where costs are significantly lower.”
Paul McInnes in The Guardian highlighted that clubs are torn between the head and the heart and have four stances to confront: maintaining the integrity of the competition (while worrying about money); actually agreeing when football should return; health issues; and finding the right conditions for the restart. Again, turkeys will not willingly vote for anything which will jeapordise their own position.
Asking clubs to vote on the solution when the season is far from over is an unsatisfactory situation because decisions will not always be made objectively. While Brighton’s Chief Executive rightly points out the resumption could cost lives, it could also cost his team their place in the Premier League. Club officials do also have the added concern about legal issues if a player becomes sick because of the return to action, but who is going to vote for something that may relegate their own club?
Another Guardian writer, Jonathan Wilson, predicts the new normal may be a period where games are played without full stadiums. “A major recession seems all but certain. Sponsorship, advertising and commercial income will all drop….Nobody knows how travel may continue to be affected, reducing the viability of international tournaments and foreign tours. This is the biggest financial hit facing the game since the 1930s.”
Sources: The Times, Sunday Times, Daily Mail, Sky Sports News, The Guardian.