Even as the Premier League make some progress in Project Restart, getting closer to resolving issues such as holding promotion and relegation (with The FA putting their feet down and making it clear that has to happen), and potentially scrapping the idea of neutral venues after increasing opposition from clubs both towards the top and the bottom of the table, several massive points of contention remain.
One of the biggest, if not the biggest, are the concerns over the health and safety of the players playing a contact game (even if the total amount of close contact is less than one might expect) in the time of a pandemic and a disease with no vaccine that spreads through human contact.
Unfortunately, if football and/or society wait for a vaccine, we might not have a football or a society to return to.
So some sort of a compromise solution must be found, just as it must be found in every other walk of life with people like you and I slowly returning to work.
That will require buy-in and consent from all sides, cool heads, and some reasonable commentary to help grease the wheels. Unfortunately, the English media specialize in unhelpful commentary, and this time it’s not just the tabloids.
Take the following tweet from the Telegraph, claiming that the Premier League will tell players to “turn your face away when tackled” when they get together on Wednesday to discuss the various issues facing Project Restart.
Exclusive @JBurtTelegraph report on the Premier League's plan to convince captains and managers that it's safe to resume includes telling players to 'turn your face away when tackled' https://t.co/kJjHFdqt1v— Telegraph Football (@TeleFootball) May 12, 2020
That certainly is a ridiculous suggestion on many levels, even if it just a suggestion.
Except that’s not what the story says. The actual line in the story is “turning their face away when getting up from the challenge and, generally, avoiding face to face contact wherever possible”.
It’s a minor distinction, but “getting up from a challenge” isn’t the same as “when tackled” especially on first glance.
The League aren’t advocating turning your head when being tackled or some other silliness. They just don’t want players getting in each others’ faces to minimize face-to-face contact as much as possible (since the virus spreads the best like that).
But painting the issue as if to make the Premier League into even bigger bungling idiots than they already are is an easy sell. Judging by the retweets and the re-reports, the Telegraph have a hit on their hands — even if, judging by the responses to the tweet, most still haven’t actually read the article.
Meanwhile, the Premier League now have an ever higher PR mountain to climb.
Concentrating on the absurd also takes attention away from any potential real concerns over testing (first trial started this week), over the necessary protocols (following the Bundesliga example, plus every step having to be approved by the appropriate healthcare and government authorities), and the very real possibility that if players aren’t informed correctly — which really should’ve been started a long time ago — we could actually be facing hold-outs or even a strike.