A couple of months ago, people were debating whether it was safe for football to return. However, now in late May the Bundesliga is back, and the Premier League initiates group training. Monday’s unanimous vote means that players can start training in small groups as long as social distancing rules are enforced. Although a small step towards a return, the Premier league returning looks more likely than ever but is that what should happen? Written by Sehaj Dhillon
The Premier League Should Return
On one hand some could argue that since the Premier league was suspended on March 13, enough time has passed to discuss its return. Perhaps the UK has seen the worst of pandemic and the future is only bright. From the 8th May England and Wales had seen near 40,000 deaths. However the death rate had fallen by a third. The capital, which at one point was filled with Covid-19 related cases saw it’s infection rate halve every 3.5 days. And this Monday, London saw no new reported cases, down from 19 on the Sunday.
Promising data, since the FA would factor in there are currently five London clubs in the Premier League. However, the data could be slightly misleading as the Covid-19 patient notification system did not operate for a small amount of time on the 16th May. Fortunately, to be more prudent the league is also conducting tests of their own.
As part of the Project Restart the league started their first round of testing which included 748 players and staff from 19 clubs. While the last club will be part of the second round of testing. From the 19 clubs tested, six players have tested positive across three clubs. It has been revealed that out of the six, three are at one club. One player and two members of staff at Watford have tested positive while Burnley assistant manager Ian Woan is the fourth.
On the surface this could be seen as a step back, but you have to look overseas to realise it’s not the end of for topflight English football. In Germany 1,742 tests were taken, more than double the amount conducted in project restart. Out of 36 clubs, they found 10 positive results. Although, it took them nearly five weeks the Bundesliga has already managed to field nine games.
The Premier League Should Not Return
Although what happened in Germany doesn’t mean the Premier League is in the clear. It would be nothing but assumptions to say because four less positive tests mean the league can easily return. Especially when you compare around 8,000 deaths to the UK’s near 40,000. There are still a list of problems to face. The biggest seems to be convincing the players that it’s safe to return.
Players have come forward and voiced their concerns about how quickly things are moving. Despite Newcastle returning to training on Tuesday, left-back Danny Rose took caution. On the Lockdown Tactics podcast he said: “People are suggesting we should go back to football, like we’re guinea pigs or lab rats.” The Government wants football to return as soon as possible to boost morale, but Rose said he’s not concerned about the nations morale and that “people’s lives are at risk. Football shouldn’t even be spoke about coming back until the numbers have dropped massively. Similarly, Watford captain Troy Deeney says he will not be returning to training due to fears about the health of his new-born. He said: “My son is only five months old, he had breathing difficulties, so I don’t want to come home to put him in more danger.” He stressed that “it only takes on person to get infected within the group” for him to bring the virus home and this was before three members at Watford tested positive.
Although, things have generally improved, it is important to realise that the UK is far from free of this pandemic. Earlier this month, Premier League medics sent a letter to the league’s Medical Advisor Mark Gillet and Director of Football Richard Garlick. Worried about contact with an infected player and their insurance. Important to think about since it is these medical professionals that will have to be in contact if the player hurts themselves.
Making the season null and void would cost broadcasters a ton of money, but it could be just as detrimental to clubs if the league returns. The only way for us to see football back is for games to be played behind closed doors. But having no fans means some clubs will face a loss in income that they simply can’t sustain. Former transfer chief, Damien Comolli says that several clubs could struggle financially for years as a result of the pandemic since it hasn’t just affected this season but will also alter games next season. He said: “We have to remember that half of next season will be played behind closed doors, so we are talking financial for the big clubs.” Comolli claims that the loss could be more than a £100 million and the effect could be seen for years.
The Governments relaxed measures means hundreds took advantage and flocked to the beach to enjoy the sun. People have been dodging the rules since the start of lockdown and we have to ask the question will football fans do the same? Imagine how many would parade the streets when Liverpool get their next two wins and clinch the title. League 2 and French Ligue ended their seasons, so should the Premier league do the same? This peculiar scenario has raised plenty of questions and concerns but whether the league returns or not we can hope that the right decision was made.