Can The Premier League Really Get Back Up And Running In June?
As we enter the month of May, it would seem apparent that people are gearing up for the relaxation of lockdown, despite the UK's death toll now spiralling to over 30,000 over the last couple of days. Over the last few weeks, people appear to have been talking more and more about the return of the Premier League as life returns to a vague string of normality in other nations such as Germany, but is it possible for the UK to do the same?
The Premier League themselves released a statement last week regarding the next steps to bringing the best league in the world back to billions of fans, but in all due seriousness, it didn't really explain much. It's only a few lines long and made one key point: "The League and clubs are considering the first tentative moves forward and will only return to training and playing with Government guidance, under expert medical advice and after consultation with players and managers.". In that, it would seem that the Premier League are thinking of how to bring the league back to the masses, although players from clubs such as my beloved Arsenal have been seen returning to training at London Colney. It seems strange to even consider a world with sport behind closed doors, even though it happens somewhat regularly for some clubs on the continent with rowdy fans, so it obviously can be done.
What seems strange to me is the way that football can be played in the age of Corona, especially given the nature of the modern game. I mean, to coin a phrase, the Corona-era football games might be quite open affairs, not just because of the distance between players. Football in the Corona-era might as well resemble a form of tag rugby with no tackling permitted. There'll be no high pressure in games and El-Rondo drills in training will be abandoned. Expect a lot of crosses into the box with unmarked headers, or free kicks going in left, right and centre, with players now two metres apart in the wall. The canister of the spray that referees use on free kicks will be empty by the end of a game as we're having to mark out where each player stands to abide by social distancing rules. It'll end up being a depressing affair if it isn't done right.
All jokes aside though, for it to properly work, players and staff have to be tested extensively before any games can go ahead. It appears that the Premier League have addressed this and have assembled a task-force of all twenty clubs' doctors to try and work on the medical side of the league's continued operation. There's also the question of insurance of both medics and players if anyone contracts the virus which appears to be a big issue that'll be brought up at the next shareholders' meeting. BBC Sport obtained some preliminary guidelines on some of the ways that the league could get back on its feet initially. It appears that training grounds would be refitted for social distancing and that players will have to wear masks constantly, as well as being screened for symptoms on a daily basis.
Obviously this situation is ever-changing and with the government review of lockdown this week, all of the Premier League's plans could soon be scuppered. Despite the Government giving the go-ahead for a 1st June restart, a week earlier than planned, there's every chance that if people flout the lockdown rules, as Boris Johnson said yesterday, that this decision could be reversed. With Germany as a model to work from, they planned to get the Bundesliga back by the 9th May, but the German government have since pushed it back to the 23rd. There's a chance obviously that sport won't come back at all and we'll be left watching reruns of old FA Cup finals or Premier League classics on Sky, but for those wanting to get a good football-related fix, there's always Football Manager, and if you want a retro fix of that, there's a 2006/07 database that someone has created too so, if you've always wanted to take Marouane Chamakh to Real Madrid and make him a star, or make Tottenham Hotspur Premier League winners with Jermaine Defoe up top, then you can.
Realistically, it's going to be a long while before we see football firmly back on our screens, but in the meantime, hopefully there'll be more positive movement on the side of the Premier League and more guidance issued that'll make life easier. We may not have the Euros to look forward to this year, but the return of football, especially the Premier League, is wanted worldwide, and every day that passes is another day closer to it coming back. Let's keep dreaming.