Will footballers actually want to come to England in future?

By Christophe Jost and Tony Attwood

As you may have heard, the UK in general and England in particular has gone its own way in dealing with the coronavirus crisis.

And inevitably that has meant a certain amount of uncertainty and worry about what Britain is doing, and what effect it will have.

Now that might seem an odd thing to write about on a football blog, but there is a point here.  Because if the UK (or just England) is doing its own thing, one group of people who will be affected are the footballers.  If living in England is perceived to be less safe than living elsewhere it will result in players being less willing to come and play in the Premier League.

Here’s how it goes…

The government in London has been criticised for suggesting they want as many as 60% of the population to get coronavirus so that a general immunity is built up, the virus stops spreading, and the rest of the population does not get it.

Speaking on the leading BBC morning news programme the chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said, “Our aim is to try and reduce the peak, broaden the peak, not suppress it completely; also, because the vast majority of people get a mild illness, to build up some kind of herd immunity so more people are immune to this disease and we reduce the transmission.   At the same time we protect those who are most vulnerable to it. Those are the key things we need to do.”

The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, (the most senior government minister in relation to health) wrote in the Sunday Telegraph, that the plan was “based on the expertise of world-leading scientists”.

But he then said, “Herd immunity is not a part of it. That is a scientific concept, not a goal or a strategy. Our goal is to protect life from this virus, our strategy is to protect the most vulnerable and protect the NHS through contain, delay, research and mitigate.”

So a spot of backtracking, and there now seems to be official denial that the approach has anything to do with “herd immunity.”

But there is clearly an element of this in government thinking as immunity can be gained by recovering from an infection or through vaccination (although we don’t have a vaccine at the moment).  Once enough people have the disease, infections reduce, and the disease goes.  It is what we did with smallpox in 1977.

The criticism of the approach is that this is a sort of Russian roulette played with a people of close to 70 million people.   It may work. It may not. But then, it is a concept reminiscent of Churchill and the UK fighting alone against all odds.  Which might appeal to some UK citizens, but not necessarily to footballers from across the world.

The UK Prime Minister warned his people that loved ones will not survive. The fact that people will die in the process of building this herd immunity is, at least at the level of the government, a known and accepted one. Enough so that people are told about it.

So let’s move the cursor six months down the timeline. Let’s say the Prime Minister’s decision has been successful. Hopefully with a minimal number of victims.

So the 70 million UK inhabitants find themselves immune to that virus and everybody is happy. Immune, but maybe, probably, carrying the virus, and the probability that they can infect non-immune people is real.

But…and there is a but, in the meantime the rest of the world has chosen to protect people from the virus – to avoid them getting exposed to it –  and as what is happening in China shows, hopefully winning the war on the virus with this strategy.

Now. say you are head of the European Commission. You’ve seen all countries go into lockdown. You’re aware of the economic mayhem this has provoked and now need to lead the effort to rebuild the economies of all these countries and of the EU.

And John Smith from East London wants to enter Europe. John Smith who may be carrying an infectious disease against which he is immune but the European population is not immune.

Does John Smith get a visa? Would the UK government hand out visas easily to Ebola victims who survived?

This is the same problem as we’ve had in the past decade with measles, not only in Europe but in many countries, including the USA.

So do we really believe UK citizens may be able to roam freely with their new royal blue passports and be welcomed around the world with such a question mark over their health?  [Although apparently some people are still being issued with EU coloured passports because the new covers haven’t arrived from the printers yet].

So what does this have to do with football? Well, everything….

Will 5,000 travelling fans of Liverpool be given entry to see a game in Europe? Will European fans want to take that sort of a risk?

Will UK players or foreign players actually playing in the UK be allowed to cross the Channel or board a plane to any country hit by that virus?   Will foreign players want to take the risk to come to the UK and catch that virus?

Strangely this subject has not come up in any of the media coverage we have seen.  It seems that the consequences of the choices being made are not always being explained clearly.

Life in the UK may never be the same again.   Life for residents in the UK who want to travel elsewhere may not be the same again as a result of this different policy.  Footballers from Europe may be just that little bit more cautious.  After all it only takes a few people to say, “You don’t want to play in England… you’ll catch coronavirus,” for the attraction of the Premier League to diminish somewhat.

7 Replies to “Will footballers actually want to come to England in future?”

  1. I don’t know enough about infectious diseases. But, this thread seems to present a possible bifurcation in humans. Some countries (supposedly those with high population densities) decide to travel a path of herd immunity while others look to social distancing to reduce transmission. It can’t be that simple, but there are lots of countries that have highly concentrated population centres and disbursed rural populations.

    If people wanted to travel, they have to travel to a “like” place. If you lived in a high population centre with herd immunity, you could go on vacation to another high population centre, but you could never go to a rural place.


    Interesting to ponder on.

    I see CAS has decided to not have any in-person deliberations until something like May. Lots of teams are threatening to sue leagues. I can see governments declaring such lawsuits to be frivolous. But what I really want to see, is PGMO disbanded and replaced by something that really is professional. Sort of like all (most?) governments with the word “Democratic” in their name actually being dictatorships.

  2. Gord ! I’m surprised that you claim to not know about infectious diseases. The PGMOL virus is the most virulent disease known to man!! They infect the honesty in sport and kill anything positive about Arsenal. They destroy the Laws of The Game and replace them with a PGMOL virus called Viral Actual Redaction where the truth is replaced by a decree that whatever was supposed to have happened didn’t! and the on field idiot with the whistle will just follow instructions and decree what is passed into his lug hole. (Lug hole is ear hole mate innit).

    We ain’t ever gonna be refs are we mate? so lets learn ’em some proper cockney lingo before we learns ’em the rhymin stuff. Up the duff an’ that. Apples an pears up the jaksie!

  3. 🙂


    If England is looking to have people become immune to this corona virus, there could be some parallel effects. For instance, does the IOC allow England to send a team to Japan 2020?

  4. Another in this series of very interesting articles. I do agree with Menace the Pigmob is the biggest disease we are facing. The likes of Dean, Atkinson, Taylor and their ilk should be put into permanent isolation. I do hope we get a vaccine against them

  5. Some article about the future for players:

    Baer-Hoffmann said that football had continued to grow during the 2008 financial crisis but the omens were not so favourable this time.

    “For the first time in decades, we are facing a real economic crisis in football,” he added.

    Various leagues have been trying to impose Financial Fair Play on the teams, and the teams have spent all their time trying to find ways around the rules. And along comes a problem, and we are supposed to feel sorry for the players? For the teams? Why couldn’t they follow in the path the Financial Fair Play was directing them?

  6. I must say that the Netherlands are also following the path of the herd immunity. I live some 20 minutes away from Holland and go a lot to Holland in fact so I wonder if this will affect my immunity…I don’t think the virus will have stopped at the border…
    Of course with England being an Island you have a different situation.
    Is it better than the social distance strategy? I really don’t know because I cannot imagine what will happen once the restrictions measures are lifted and everyone will again by closer to each other?

  7. I do not feel sorry for the players in the slightest.

    Their greed and that of their agents has been slowly destroying the game, with players have only as much loyalty as their weekly wage payment indicates.

    It remains to be seen whether common sense will prevail when this is all over, or whether we will return to the greed of before.

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