The massive changes in football ahead. Part One: the case against early resumption. by Jon Fox
Many Gooners will have seen the heated arguments on here yesterday about the proposed resumption of Prem fixtures within weeks. I want to set out the case fully and unequivocally for my view that no Prem football can possibly start again for some considerable time, and certainly not until this deadly virus is not killing hundreds nor even tens of our fellows each day. This is a long and well considered article which may run into several parts, so please forgive my wordy reasoning. I also wish to discuss, in later parts and in depth, the real opportunity this virus gives us all to re-instil a large measure of morality to the obscenity of ever increasing players wealth (including those ghastly agents who leech off the players).
I regard Ad Martin’s view that football will restart in a very few weeks as harmful and to be avoided at all costs. The massive change in public attitudes in outright fear and hostility towards selfish people who wish to flout the vital lockdown is obvious, esp. on Thursday evenings, with the national outpouring of thanks and praise to those heroes in the NHS and other key workers too. Thousands of people from all walks of life have spoken online and in the media, TV, radio, printed press, etc about their love for these heroes, and this amply shows those among us who keep our eyes and ears open, just how very much has already changed and continues to increase daily. On the contrary, there are a number of those who seem to think this virus little more than a ‘soon to be forgotten’ interval in our lives, and who think things will revert back to precisely where they were. I SAY THIS IS BUNKUM, SILLINESS AND AN INABILITY TO SEE WHAT ALMOST ALL PRESCIENT FOLK EASILY SEE!
It is noticeably clear that football has already been forced into long term and great change, mostly for the better when the dust finally settles. I fully agree that when football does start, it will be without crowds for a long while ahead and therefore so-called “behind locked doors”. But do not imagine this means only two teams and officials in the ground. It has been widely speculated that any Prem ground will contain at least two hundred people, with all the players, subs, coaches managers, kit men, ambulance men, Red Cross workers and match officials. Plus, TV and press people! AdMartin thinks that each person can easily be tested for Covid 19 shortly before each game and again afterward with the results instantly accessible. This is patently not possible and most players and non-players in that ground would feel unhappy at being asked to jump the queue for tests, ahead of the at-risk NHS and Care Home marvels, and many other key workers whose need is far higher than mere players.
Moreover, most players have wives, partners and many have young children and to think that they would willingly risk passing this virus on to their loved ones is fanciful and nonsensical. Even in the fanciful state of testing all players before games, what happens when any player tests positive, as is certain to happen. What if that is the team’s star player, say Auba or Martinelli, Saka? Well, I’ll answer that; it won’t happen in the first case!
My next reason that I believe there will be no summer football, is that no medical people will consent to spend their time at football while people are dying in the community. It is against all medical ethics and unlike many players, medical folk have ethics embedded in their souls and will not be there, thus rendering any attempt to play to be against football’s own rules. Players routinely spit when playing, and who amongst us imagines for a moment that all players are going to carry a hankie or bunch of tissues in their sleeve (assuming that on hot summer days shirts with LONG sleeves will be worn?) If a player did spit on the ground, will the game be instantly halted whilst a cleaning man comes on with disinfectant and a mop and bucket to wipe up the spit? Again, sheer fantasy!
How about marking at corners and free kicks and clashes of players, as football is a close contact sport, again unnoticed by Martin. What happens when blood flows, as it does in almost all games at times?
Then what about the fitness of players almost already into May, with several weeks of intensive training at close contact being necessary before the fitness level to play games are reached? Again, it will not happen! Isolated training, as at London Colney, is one thing, close-contact, real-football training is quite another, and we are many weeks, more likely months, away from even that remote possibility being allowed by government.
Next, Martin has written that a government minister is in preliminary talks with the Prem to plan the next stages to resumption. Of course, he is – and why? Again, the government have been much accused of being too late in planning for lockdown and also lack of PPE (personal protective equipment) by very many folks, with good reason too in my view! They are keen not to be behind the eight-ball on being seen to at least plan for when lockdown is lessened and are right to do so. But bright folk do not confuse talks about eventual possibilities, so as to be in good time, with an imminent return to a clear, though impossibly soon restart.
It is well known that many players in the Prem are out of contract on June 30th and it has also been announced that the transfer window will be put back at least to September, but there is also a school of thought that believes the whole summer should be open from now on with all free to buy as they wish. Whatever ultimately happens, it is clear that the current short summer window will be changed and that changes all sorts of contract matters and affects current squads as soon as July 1st comes. What happens in the theoretical event that we are halfway through the remaining fixtures when many players can and will simply walk away, legally too once July 1st comes? What about players who know they will soon be playing elsewhere not wishing to risk that transfer falling through by getting injured playing, when about to leave? What about the effect on all clubs when all the squad know who else in their squad will just walk away on June 30th, irrespective of how many games are still to be played? These questions are of course all fantasy, as none will happen and so none will apply.
In my opinion, what is most LIKELY to be the case when it becomes clear that the Prem cannot be finished this summer, though after much further and fruitless debate, is that the final Prem positions will be counted, with points per game already played deciding positions. Thus, we would finish eighth, above Spurs and in the final Europa spot, assuming that City’s ban is not overturned, which it might be. I also believe other positions would all use points per game average, but with no relegation this year and two promoted only, in Leeds and WBA. Then probably four to go down next season.
There is another important point to consider and that is the unfair pressure that would be put upon players who are reluctant to play games. If some consented but not others – as would happen in that theory – it would split squads and massively harm team spirit with incalculable damage for years to come to team morale. Fan articles ramping up such a pressure are wrong headed and deeply unhelpful. Many simply would not agree to play while fellow humans are dying, even in “mere” dozens daily! Many players have deep morals and will just refuse to play, though others would agree. The government’s own oft stressed guidelines will refuse to sanction matches while folk are dying, and the NHS is still under extreme pressure (as always!!)
All these detailed reasons add up in my logical head to a total impossibility for any Prem matches to resume this summer and even early autumn. The only caveat is IF a widely effective and widely available vaccine is found very soon, but all comments thus far from medical experts say this being widely available is still a year or so away.
Any fair minded and rational fan reading these pertinent comments must surely be bound to conclude that no Prem games will be played for many months to come. It is just conceivable that the Prem will decide to hold the current Prem positions open but not completed until all is safe, perhaps deep into winter or next calendar year, with a much truncated 2020-21 season to follow. But what is certain is that no more games will be played this summer, whatever a small minority of blinkered fans think!
In the next part I will talk in further depth and importance on the many monetary changes that are happening as we speak, unnoticed by some, incredibly!
Stay safe and have patience.