The global health crisis struck English football into a coma two months ago, yet there is still no planned date to continue the season. Premier League officials are hoping for a mid-June restart, but they do not want to be responsible for compromising the players’ safety.
Several clubs don’t want the Premier League to continue in these conditions – matches will be behind closed doors, possibly with neutral venues, with 5 substitutions allowed – presumably for their own gain. However, if the league doesn’t resume, Liverpool’s deserved title would be criticised as “improper” by rival fans. It will be difficult to relegate teams, especially if some important remaining games were due to take place at the home ground, with neutral venues prompting clubs that are at risk from relegation such as Brighton and Watford to question the “integrity” of the game. If there is no Premier League relegation, there will be several issues in promoting Championship clubs.
Whether Bundesliga’s season continuation proves successful or not will certainly impact the Premier League’s “Project restart” plans. Players have returned to training this week, with 40 tests available for each club. Six unnamed players have responded as positive for COVID-19, from disclosed clubs. If more players continue to test positive, the league’s resumption will doubtlessly be delayed.
Some players and staff have raised their concerns on returning to their usual schedules, as the safety of themselves and their families is being jeopardised. Watford captain Troy Deeney has revealed that he will not return to training when other players do, because he wants to protect his vulnerable son. The striker is well-known for his down-to-Earth and honest attitude, which makes it unsurprising that he was so open about his view on the restart. The Hornets reportedly respect Deeney’s decision and are allowing the skipper to make his own choice. Mr Watford said: “We’re due back in this week, I’ve said I’m not going in.
“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.”
The 31-year-old added: “My problem was in the meeting, I asked very simple questions.
“For black, Asian and mixed ethnicities, they’re four times more likely to get the illness, they’re twice as likely to have long-lasting illnesses – is there anything extra, additional screening, heart stuff to see if people have got problems with that? No. OK, well I feel that should be addressed.
“I can’t get a haircut until mid-July but I can go and get in a box with 19 people and go and jump for a header and nobody could answer the questions, not because they didn’t want to, just because they don’t know the information.
“So I said if you don’t know the information, why would I put myself at risk?”
Watford gaffer Nigel Pearson also stated in an interview with The Times that he isn’t very comfortable with the league’s plans. “God forbid we have a fatality. People are closing their eyes to the threat.
“Yes, we would like to restart it but it’s got to be safe. We should be cautious. To ignore possibilities is foolhardy. It’s about safeguarding people’s health.
“We have to try to believe (Government) advice that we’re being given that we’ve reached the peak but there’s still an incredible number of people losing their lives through this.
“The death toll in the UK is anything between 33,000 and 38,000. That’s filling our stadium and then filling it half again. It’s a sobering thought.”
With many other people involved in football raising concerns about their safety and wellbeing, the Premier League faces a real issue in continuing the season. They have to make sure there is only a minimal risk of complications.