The Premier League have been engaged in discussions with various stakeholders for well over a month now about how and when to restart things in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but as Chelsea boss Frank Lampard revealed on BT Sport’s “Early Kick-Off” show today, one group who have not been consulted at all are the players and managers.
Given the advanced stage of the league’s planning, with training possibly set to resume in a couple weeks and games in a little over a month, that’s surprising to say the least.
“I welcome the fact that the Premier League have said player and staff health and safety will come first, and that they’re going to have conversations with players and managers within that because that hasn’t really happened to be honest.”
The issue is a delicate and complicated one already, but without consulting those who will be put at increased risk, it’s avoiding a major consideration altogether.
Granted, we (football, society, everybody) cannot wait until things are completely risk-free (if that’s even possible), but we have to do everything reasonably in a our power to minimize that risk. And that includes not putting players, staff, and all others involved at unnecessary or unacceptable levels of risk, while also not affected other areas of the wider response to the virus.
We all want football back, but we have to do so at the right cost, one that finds the best available balance of financial considerations (money does make the world and the Premier League go round), the toll on individual health, and the burden (and benefit) of the wider societal impact.
“I’m very aware of the nation’s desire to get football back on because of what it means, the escapism and the fact we love our football, but I’m also aware of the many obstacles that we have to overcome.
“We’re all desperate to watch football, to play football and train again. However, we cannot risk the health of players and staff who are working in football and we have to respect the amazing work that the NHS and care workers have been doing.”
“What I would say is the idea of the health and safety of players and staff is huge. At the moment, the country has practised social distancing so well but the fact we play this contact sport, how are we going to not put the players at risk in terms of the next few weeks if we can get to a stage where that can happen?”
“The other issue is when we talk about the testing we’ll have to be doing. We have probably about 70 or 80 staff at Cobham minimum if we’re going to restart training and we’re going to have test regularly.
“When we’re looking around the world, I don’t know the testing numbers for NHS and care workers and people that are doing these incredible jobs over the last two months or so. I don’t think it would sit well, not just with me but with anybody, if we didn’t make sure that people getting tested are in that frontline. I think that’s important for football to take its place.
“After that, we probably have the football integrity issues such as neutral venues and out-of-contract players, of which we have a couple of major ones, so there are many conversations and I think that’s very clear to see at the minute.”
-Frank Lampard; source: BT Sport via Chelsea FC
The Premier League have proposed answers to many of these questions, some realistic, some less so, most playing badly in terms of optics with larges swathes of society.
The issue of testing, for example, is set to be solved with private testing resources that are not used by the government. Neutral venues seem to be a sticking point with many teams, but if fans aren’t allowed anyway and the standard match-day routine will already be greatly disrupted, are we really losing any home-field advantage? The issue of player contracts and the June 30 fiscal-year end date is so great that it’s mostly just been ignored since it may be impossible to answer until we get there.
The Premier League’s next crisis meeting is this upcoming week.
Also, BEHOLD Super Frank’s quarantine beard:
"When we look around the world, it doesn't sit well with me if people on the frontline aren't getting tested."— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 2, 2020
Frank Lampard is open to football resuming but if testing 70/80 at the training ground takes away from those in need he wouldn't be too keen...#EarlyKickOff pic.twitter.com/YRCevImTfE