For Football's Sake
As we wait for the government to update us on how and when the lockdown will be lifted, speculation continues about whether the football season will be played to a finish.
How much longer can the game stay in limbo? For football's sake, decisions need to be taken sooner rather than later.
What do we know so far?
If the remaining league fixtures are to be played, then they will almost certainly be behind closed doors. If you’ve ever watched a Champions League game where the fans were banned then you will know that it’s a markedly different viewing experience to watching a game with thousands of fans cheering, singing and applauding.
It also seems likely that neutral venues will be used to rush through the fixtures and make health and safety easier to monitor. Whilst clubs accept that using neutral venues is logical, some have expressed concerns about the fairness of a relegation scrap without the advantage of home fixtures. Brighton have indicated that they will only agree to neutral venues if relegation is taken off the table. Cue uproar from the teams battling for promotion from the Championship. It will be the same story as you look down the football pyramid.
Shortened halves have also been mentioned. A lot of football will have to be played in a short space of time. Shorter games will benefit the players who will be rushed back onto the pitch without a full “pre-season” programme in their legs.
To recap, short matches, played at neutral venues with no fans. I’m as desperate to watch football as every fan but how appealing does that format really sound? I suspect that fans will gobble up the first few matches, whilst thinking it’s all a bit weird, but after watching what will amount to a few glorified training sessions, I’m not sure everyone will stick with it. They might watch all of their own team’s matches but I’d wager that Netflix box sets will suddenly become more appealing than tuning in to a midtable, counts for nothing, snoozefest between two teams that they couldn’t care less about.
And what about the lower leagues? Can all of their matches be televised or streamed live? That would require a lot of socially distanced manpower.
Supposedly the season needs to be finished to maintain the integrity of the game. Is the kind of football that’s being proposed really maintaining any kind of integrity? It seems more like a desperate attempt to just get the season done so the TV and sponsorship money doesn’t have to be handed back.
We may not have to wait much longer to find out what the grand plan is. A vote on the proposals is taking place on Monday (11th May). The neutral stadium idea needs 14 out of the 20 Premier League clubs to agree to it. If they don’t then Richard Bevan, Chief Executive of the League Managers Association, believes the season could be cancelled.
That would, no doubt, be followed by the bun fight of how titles, promotions and relegations are decided, if at all.
I’d just like them to make a decision and stick with it so we can all look ahead to the future.