At 11am on Friday 13th March 2020, the Premier League announced the league would be suspended until the 4th of April due to fears over the coronavirus.
Carlo Ancelotti once said that “Football is the most important of the less important things in the world” and the last week has optimized the ending to that statement.
At the time of writing on Friday morning, I – similar to many of you – have just seen the news confirmed by an official club statement that Callum Hudson-Odoi has tested positive for COVID-19. The whole of the Chelsea squad has gone into self-isolation, Cobham has undergone a deep clean and it is fully expected the game against Aston Villa will be called off.
Given the nature of how rapid this outbreak is, it feels longer than yesterday that Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta also tested positive and the Gunners match against Brighton was suspended swiftly. Add to that earlier in the day news that Chelsea had cancelled training due to some of the squad and members of staff showing symptoms, Leicester also forced into self-isolation. Benjamin Mendy from Manchester City was sent home, also in response – the Citizens return leg against Real Madrid postponed. UEFA and FIFA had met to decide the future of the Champions League, Europa League and the Euro’s.
Though as of 8pm on Thursday evening, the Premier League’s stance was to keep calm and carry on.
In a week that has seen European games moved behind closed-doors, Serie A suspended and the NBA season in America called off too, it felt like the FA and the English government’s response has been one of indifference, fully ignoring the worldwide pandemic which is not slowing down anytime soon. The equivalent to putting both your fingers in your ears and screaming incessantly like a toddler.
Instead of following the world’s biggest sporting bodies who have all taken extreme precautionary measures to help the wellbeing of the competitors, staff and supporters, English Football has remained determined to stand tall, with a stiff upper lip, forging forward like nothing has changed.
Despite the World Health Organization labelling the virus a Pandemic and the United States banning all travel from Europe, the fulfilment of Premier League fixtures must be of the upmost importance rather than the health and safety of the human beings at serious risk.
The Premier League did a swift 180 when the news of Arteta testing positive emerged, announcing an Emergency Meeting on Friday morning with all clubs to discuss the next step. It is believed a slither of long overdue common sense will prevail and all of this weekend’s fixtures will be called off. Not only that, the Premier League will be suspended.
Of course, to those of us that deeply care, completely writing off the season brings with it a lot of logistical complications and problems to solve. Do Liverpool still become Champions? Who gets Champions League qualification for next season? Relegation? Promotion from the Championship?
Though of all of these squabbles feel significantly less important by the hour as a virus that is threatening the lives of those in need sweeps across the world infecting more people.
What’s concerning is that the bodies put in place to act when needed simply haven’t and have done all they can to ignore a crisis that is not going to disappear overnight. If the last few days have taught us anything, the Coronavirus is likely to infect more and stretch public health services further.
All of the concerns over rescheduling games are real and should be debated seriously, but surely there needs to be a realization that the concerns of Broadcasters and Sponsors simply do not matter when more of the biggest names in the sport are being infected.
Frank Lampard’s press conference has been cancelled as expected and the entire Premier League season being declared void is a very real possibility.
To those of us who gorge on football, who love it, ingest it, live and breathe it, write and make videos about it, it is a concerning time for sure. The implications will be huge and the answers will not come easily, though as a community we need to realise what is at stake here and make the sensible call, which is to stop playing and put health first.
The landscape of football media has been dramatically altered too in recent years with people self-employed making a living off of creating content about football and with no fixtures to cover for the next months, income could be sparse, and interest could dwindle. Those are legitimate fears which not many will have clear answers on.
Though as this article as hoped to demonstrate, despite how potentially concerning the current times are with a sport we love being ripped away from us, it is time to be mature and listen to the experts – something which has been missing in recent years.
It is important more to the lower leagues that steps are made to try in any way to compensate clubs that solely rely on income from gates on a matchday, because the likes of Accrington Stanley and AFC Wimbledon will be more seriously hurt by a league suspension than the bigger clubs with agreed TV deals and lucrative sponsorships.
What the upcoming weeks will hold, who knows? Every word just typed may look irrelevant in a couple of hours given the state of ever-changing news. It was always expected that yesterday would prove to be a tipping point and it certainly was. Suspended, made void or put behind closed doors, that is up for people of a higher pay grade, though it is hoped when that big decision is finalised it is made with health and safety as the key factor.
Stay safe and wash your hands.
Follow Daniel on Twitter for more opinions on Chelsea Football Club.
You can also watch Daniel’s opinions on Chelsea through his YouTube channel – SonOfChelsea – where he covers all things surrounding the club.