by Tony Attwood
We mentioned a number of times recently that there is a problem with the notion of ghost matches in that some fans are more than likely to gather at or near the stadium when a match is being played, whether they can gain admission or not. It is one of the reasons why the idea of playing out the season in Cyprus is being put forward.
In olden times the mass media would tend to ignore such ruminations from Untold, but it seems these days with the shortage of real live news our thoughts are being picked up a little more quickly. True it took several days and a press release from Qatar before the UK’s mass media returned from the Toppled Bollard and started to realise that there was such a thing as a pirate TV station called BeoutQ which broadcast from a satellite owned by Saudi Arabia – and that this was relevant to the purchase of Newcastle by that country. But they got there in the end, even if they generally failed to mention that the protestors (Qatar) by and large own PSG and BeIn. However such matters are details, and when have details ever bothered the media?
Now they have caught up with the thought that yes, some fans will gather near a stadium for a party when a match is being played – something we pointed out a while back in relation to the bid by Cyprus to host all the remaining Premier League games. It would not happen in Cyprus because access to the island can be readily regulated, and the number of fans who would go all that way just to stand outside the ground is going to be small. But the media are behind the curve on the Cyprus story so it is not getting an explicit mention yet.
And that is all before we get to the issue of testing everyone who has to be at the ground. in an era when care home staff in England still can’t be tested. A third of all coronavirus deaths in England happen in care homes, and there are still not enough tests for the staff and patients. One doesn’t even have to comment on that point; it just seems insane to be contemplating football matches returning to England while that situation continues.
(It’s not a media matter because the health of the elderly and the issue of football matches are dealt with by different departments in media organisations, and they haven’t talked to each other yet).
In fact what actually comes across in all this is that nothing much is being discussed at all. No one seems to know about any restart ideas, other than the Cyprus plan, and that one is only in the open because we found the story and put it on Untold.
The Guardian has suggested that some clubs are “questioning whether the government is trying to use football as a distraction amid criticism of its Covid-19 strategy and tensions over the lockdown, there is a growing feeling that the Premier League’s return could have unwanted consequences.”
And, well, yes. That’s a bit bloody obvious but I am glad to see that someone is awake. Of course, the government is looking for distractions, not because this government is being particularly inept, but because it is what government’s do. (Don’t football journalists ever talk to their colleagues who cover political and economic stories? Oh, no they don’t. Silly question.)
And all this of course before anyone has decided what to do with players whose contracts are coming to an end in two months time. Unscrupulous clubs with mountains of money could buy up players in such a position, just to stop others getting hold of them for the last games of the interrupted season, and then release the players once the remaining games have been played. A short term contract extension that would be good news for players who fear being unemployed for a while, and would harm teams that were needing them in case of injuries in the remaining fixtures. A dirty trick, but when we see what Liverpool! and Chelsea have done in recent years vis a vis young players, it looks fairly mild.
What’s more some players are abroad and they will have greater difficulties in terms of returning to England, and in terms of the isolation period, they will be expected to undergo.
But as ever it is money that dominates. The losses to the 20 Premier League clubs of not finishing the season are said to be around £57m per club on average, and obviously those clubs that might expect to be the subject to live TV more than others (clubs like Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City who feature on live games most of all) fancy getting hold of some of that cash.
However what makes this worse is that the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in the British government is now getting involved. This is the department that gives taxpayers’ money to the FA without ever keeping any check on what it does with the cash or how it handles it, so goodness knows what sort of cock-up it will come up with if given half a chance.
The Arsenal Quiz
We’ve put up an Arsenal quiz, in which all the questions are concerned with events that happened on 29 April throughout history. See how well you know your Arsenal.
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