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October 2020
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It is not full steam ahead for football, even with the plans for ghost games

By Tony Attwood

Somehow we expect the German League to have everything sorted, done and dusted when it comes to getting the pesky virus out of the way.  We imagine them having a plan so that this season dis quickly dealt with and then its full steam ahead up to the next season.  While the dear old incompetent English leagues fight and bicker, each scoring points and dithering, and Scotland the brave gives us all a bit of a laugh with the antics of Dundee and Rangers.

But in fact it is still unclear whether and how things can continue with the Bundesliga.  From what we hear the German Football League (DFL) is looking at the same idea as the Premier League – putting the teams into two locations (in their case Frankfurt and Munich or Berlin), and then over a period of a few weeks working their way through the nine-game days which are still outstanding, with several games played each day.

Now to do this, they recognise, the players have to be tested constantly along with the coaching and support staff, and the referees, and they will all have to be put into lockdown accommodation so that they don’t pick up the virus.

But there is scepticism in Germany that this will work, not least because no one knows when either country will return to normal.  Not every country is suffering in the same way from the virus. Not every country is recovering.

Meanwhile the players and the training staff have no idea what to do.  Do they keep up maximum training, or let the players’ rest?   If one of these Ghost Series of games takes place, is there then time for a holiday for the players before they start over again?   Or is the current period now to be called their holiday?

What is certainly clear in Germany is that whatever football wants to do, it will not be accorded any special rights or privileges.  Football will not be allowed to return as long as the country remains closed, and likewise it must not use up virus testing capacities that are needed in care homes, hospitals and the like.

Then there are the practicalities.  For ghost games do you need fewer security guards because there is no crowd, or more security guards because some people will probably try and blag their way in?   Do you need more or fewer ball boys, more or fewer TV cameras?

And in England what do you do about the pubs that traditionally show the Premier League games on Sky or BT Sport?  Are they allowed to show the games as normal, even though that would attract a big crowd?  And if not, is the whole process worth it for Sky and BT Sport?   They don’t need to show the games in order to fulfil their side of the contract – if the games can’t be played or they can’t show them, they want their money back from the clubs.

But Sky and the Sprout are in real financial difficulties.  Sport in general and football in particular is what keeps their whole raft of their entertainment channels running.  This is where they make their money.  This is where the profit is.

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However in the scenario in which Sky and Sprout show the games and so pay the League, but where the audience is greatly diminished because there is no pub audience, they then can’t charge their advertisers and sponsors the normal amount.

Then again, if the deal is that crowds are allowed in pubs there’s another problem: what is the logic of crowds in the bar, but not in the ground?

But ok, maybe they do say, no TV in the pubs, what then?  Then people will crowd round into the house of the friend who has Sky, so much the same problem.  In which case what is the point of a lockdown?

What is happening in fact is a lack of joined-up thinking.  Each group thinks of their own situation (like how many ball boys does it take to run a ghost match?) is the heart of the matter.  Joined up thinking is in short supply.

It is of course impossible to feel sympathy either for Sky or the Sprout given their attitude towards Arsenal through the years.   From the days when Sky used to quote the number of bookings Arsenal players had, and claimed it was outrageous, without ever doing any comparative figures for other clubs – on to the days when having been exposed for this nonsense, they then did the same with injuries.  And then on to the time when BT Spot got the rights to the Emirates cup and spent the entire show on the first day laughing at the impossibly complex of maths calculations that involved in three points for a win, one for a goal.

Well, yes as it turned out it was difficult for them, but not for the audience at home.

No wonder no one is particularly sympathetic to their problems.

 

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