Football could be nearing a return, but one must assess the risks associated with a restart in England.
In a recent survey held by YouGov, which included over 2,000 people, “73% said that the Premier League returning would not lift their spirits.”
Just “19% said that they would be pleased to see football return.”
Manchester City star, Sergio Aguero, has been just one of the names who has recently spoken out in the media surrounding the Premier League's talks to resume the 2019/20 campaign as early as June 12th.
The Argentine has said he’s personally ‘scared’ to return to action not just because of his health and his teammates, but the fact that footballers are human beings and have children and families.
“I’m very scared about returning, but I’m with my girlfriend here and I’m not going to be in contact with other people, I’m locked inside my house.”
“Maybe I have the illness and I don’t even know, when one person is ill we will think ‘oh what’s happening here?’ I hope a vaccine is found very soon so that this all ends.”
However, following positive talks with the Digital and Culture secretary Oliver Dowden with FA and Premier League officials, clubs resumed training (with social distancing measures in place) on Tuesday.
The question that immediately needs to be asked though, is why should footballers be encouraged to go back to work when most of the country are shielding themselves from this deadly virus?
The government believes that the return of professional football in England would represent a ‘huge boost in national morale’ - these the words of the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, at a recent daily briefing.
The feeling is that a return is very possible next month.
Having football back would be a huge mental boost for sports fans, there’s no doubt about that. You only have to look back to the summer of 2018 to realise how much sport can bring a nation together. Especially if games are going to be shown on free-to-air TV.
Despite games being played behind closed doors, avid sports fans would still bite your hand off to have it back as soon as possible - it’s been over two months already since the last Premier League game was staged!
However, comparing footballers playing to going to a supermarket just doesn’t make any logical sense. Watford forward, Troy Deeney, was told at the recent shareholders’ meeting, in which all 20 Premier League clubs were present, that returning to train was just the same as “going to the supermarket.”
Deeney replied with “well at least I have a choice when I go to the supermarket.”
Hundreds are dying each day in the UK, and until a wide-scale testing process can be accounted for in quashing the virus, then the scenario of 22 people, not from the same household, running around a football pitch seems rather farcical.
There has to be a talk about money in this situation. It seems to be foreshadowed in the news by the ‘festival of football’ returning, but let’s be frank here; broadcasting deals are the root problem and is perhaps why a return may end up being too rushed.
The chief executive of the Premier League, Richard Masters, spoke of a loss of ‘at least £1bn’ in a recent interview if the 2019/20 season was not completed. Perhaps worse yet, even if the season does resume, a recent article from BBC Sport states that “an estimated £340m would need to be paid out by clubs to both domestic and international broadcasters.”
You can’t help but feel it’s a bit of a catch-22. Money is the core driving factor here. As players' concerns are being more frequently reported, and as decision edges closer, it is starting to put the crisis into perspective.
Players are well aware of the risks, and although many want to return to playing the sport they love, is a resumption really that feasible? Especially considering that our country has only, until recently, started to slowly ease lockdown measures.
The police have also raised concerns of fans still turning up to grounds despite the restrictions in place. For instance, Liverpool are just two wins away from winning the league title, and should a restart happen, regardless of if the team are playing away or at a neutral venue, you can be sure that the city of Liverpool won’t be throwing away the chance to celebrate their first-ever Premier League crown.
Many hurdles remain in terms of sanctioning a restart to top-flight action. Yes, the government has issued a metaphorical ‘green light’ it seems after their recent meetings with leading officials in the world of football but players' health and the health of the nation must remain the top priority.
This article was written exclusively for golear.co.uk.