Football may be back, but the coronavirus is here to stay as well. In some parts of the world, it’s back on the rise again in fact, including in European countries, many of whom are now scrambling to avoid a second wave like we’ve seen (and/or are seeing) in the USA for example.
That may be a bit futile given the economic concerns associated with a second full lockdown, but in the UK for example, the government have this week announced new restrictions in many parts of the country, such as the new “rule of six” that limits the size and place of social gatherings.
Few gatherings are as social as attending a football match, and the earlier hope of allowing fans to start returning to stadiums next month now looks very much in danger, despite the test event that Chelsea were part of last month at Brighton and several test events coming up this weekend in the lower divisions.
This shift has prompted the Premier League to release a statement yesterday urging the UK government to stick to their original plan, even if it seems much more realistic that those plans will be pushed by at least a month, if not more.
The Premier League and its clubs met today to discuss the return of supporters to stadiums.
Safety remains the No 1 priority and clubs reiterated their commitment to ensuring Premier League stadiums will be among the safest public places, through the effective use of a wide range of mitigation measures.
Clubs will adopt a range of common standards, which will help deliver bio-secure, safe environments for fans across the League.
Clubs reaffirmed that the continued loss of matchday revenues is having a significant impact across the League as well as on the football pyramid and local and national economies.
Taking into account the high safety standards which will be set by the Premier League in conjunction with the relevant public authorities, the League and clubs urge Government to remain committed to the 1 October date for the controlled return of fans to sporting venues.
The test event at the Amex during the Brighton vs. Chelsea friendly in August saw 2500 fans in the stands, with multiple hygienic and social distancing measures in place around the ground. Similar measures are being enacted in other European leagues that are welcoming fans back already, including in parts of Central and Eastern Europe— Slovakia has had fans in the stands since August, for example, while the Bundesliga will lead the way for major European leagues (again) with their opening round of matches this upcoming weekend.
Things are looking less hopeful at the moment in England however, so we might have to wait a bit longer, even if that will continue to impact the economic landscape of football, especially below the top level.
One thing we’ve learned during this entire pandemic is that there are no easy answers and often no clear answers either. No one really knows what they’re doing, even now after six months of dealing with this situation, be they public figures or private citizens, having never really had to deal with such concerns and decisions, be they major or minor, global or local. Whatever is decided will have its fair share of fervent critics and staunch supporters. The best we can do is try to stay informed as much as we can, and make decisions based on those learnings — provided we can, depending on work, life, study situations — while adhering to the new social norms, even if they are changing rapidly and frequently.
Even if that means having to wait at least another month for fans.