The League Managers Association chief executive Richard Bevan has warned that the 2019/20 Premier League season could be cancelled if the club did not agree to playing in neutral stadiums for the remainder of the campaign. Top flight club have been reportedly told that this is the only way for all 92 remaining Premier League matches to be played.
Brighton and Hove Albion’s chief executive Paul Barber is one of the voices of opposition regarding finishing the season at neutral venues, which is something that I can understand but the coronavirus pandemic is not something that we have dealt with in our lifetimes. Bevan was asked if disagreement could end the season and he said:
“Yes, I think that probably is correct. The Government, if they haven’t already, will be making it clear that home matches with densely populated stadia really puts into question whether social distancing rules can be adhered to and without doubt that will be on the voting next Monday with the clubs.”
Bevan also insisted that there was no suggested that players or managers were being coerced into a Premier League restart and that the plans to ensure safety, which include the testing procedures for everyone involved would be outlined to players and managers next week. Obviously a lot of work has been put into this restart of the league.
It has also been reported that a small group of doctors had raised a number of concerns, including approving guidelines which will still carry the ‘threat of death, liability, testing and insurance, transmission of the virus via sweat and goalkeeper gloves, suspicions that some clubs are already ignoring guidelines, an increased risk to BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) employees, and the ability of emergency services to attend training ground incidents’. Bevan stated:
“Next week the medical and operational protocols are going to be presented to the managers and indeed the players.
“Hopefully there will be solutions that create this safe environment, in the meantime we’re staying very open-minded and as always the managers take their responsibility to the game very seriously on all these issues.”
Bevan than stated that he expected to ‘receive the protocols covering testing, tracking, personal protective equipment and guidelines of social distancing on Thursday ahead of the meeting next week’. A seven page document was drawn up by the Premier League’s director of football Richard Garlick which talks about players wearing masks or snoods at training – Brighton striker Glenn Murray branded this as farcical. Bevan stated that there was no coercion of players by managers.
“They’re the voice and leaders of clubs and teams but they always demonstrate calm leadership and that’s what we need.
“Whatever the pressures, physical, psychological well-being of players, coaches and indeed all the personnel, that will come first and foremost.”
It has also been reported that a number of things could be banned by the Premier League if and when the season resumes. In an exclusive by the Telegraph, Jason Burt reported that spitting, swapping shirts at the end of the matches, sharing water bottles and even team celebrations could be cancelled for the resumption of the league.
I can understand a number of these, being that we are in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, which so far has killed 30,076 people in the United Kingdom. With the likelihood of the virus being transferred by the sweat from the shirts, spit from bottles and players coming into close contact with one another, however, celebrations can be done differently.
This is going to create a new landscape for the world – the way in which we do things will have to change to overcome this virus. We have, in the past, done it before and will do it again. At this moment in time though, it seems really rushed to bring football back too soon with the pandemic raging on in the background. I guess we shall see what happens.