The Premier League must forget crazy behind-closed-doors idea and axe season

Credit to the Premier League and the EFL for trying.

It makes perfect sense to exhaust every possible avenue to ensure that we finish what we started in terms of the 2019/20 season.

We are surely at the point now, however, where enough is enough. It is time to end the season.

Determination is easing into delusion. When people are dying, men and women are losing their jobs and so many lie critically ill in hospital from the coronavirus, sport – never mind football – is not important.

The 601 new hospital deaths reported on Wednesday by health services in England, Scotland and Wales has the total across those three NHS bodies rise to 26,097.

In Holland, Belgium and now France the season is over. They’ve finally accepted the things they cannot change. Germany has seen a resurgence this week in the number of cases after a relaxation of the lockdown. A decision on the Bundesliga could be made on Thursday.

Why is Britain’s Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, fuelling talk of a restart? Especially when only last week the government’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, braced the country for months more of social distancing? So much for following the science.

Games behind closed doors has been a crazy idea from the start.

Go back even further and the idea that players would forego the pre-match handshake to protect them from the virus – only to engage in 90 minutes of physical contact followed by shirt swapping at the end – was laughable.

Footballers aren’t robots. Wayne Rooney, Arsenal’s Matteo Guendouzi, West Ham’s Aaron Cresswell and Leyton Orient’s Jobi McAnuff are among a string of stars who have openly expressed their fears of infecting their families by playing.

There are hundreds more, many of whom are too scared to put their heads above the parapet. Medical staff too.

Clubs are well of their fears. Some remain convinced that it is only a matter of time before football in this country waves the white flag.

How, for example, does the game intend to protect it’s black and ethnic minority stars with 34.5% of critically ill coronavirus patients BAME?

That same demographic makes up 72% of all NHS and carer deaths from COVID-19. Players can see the escalating numbers and are concerned. With the best will in the world, the Premier League surely cannot give them any guarantees.

It is all very well declaring an intention to test 1000 players a week but where is the appetite for that when the doctors and nurses who actually need those tests can’t get them?

It took the announcement, late on that Thursday night six weeks ago, that Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta had contracted the virus for the Premier League to finally grind to a halt. At the time Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo was among many pleading for football to wake up.

Does a player, manager, backroom staff member or even a stadium employee need to die now for the game to realise you cannot put wealth before health?

Let’s indulge those who believe it can return in June and focus for a second on the football?

What even happens when one player falls sick and the rest of the team have to self-isolate? How is that fair for the club affected?

How can you retain the Premier League’s “sporting integrity” when, after clubs have enjoyed home advantage for two thirds of the season, games are suddenly played at “neutral, approved” venues like Wembley, St George’s Park or Twickenham?

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