Since the Premier League was suspended on 13 March until further notice, the majority of football fans have longed for its return. After what has seemed like an eternity of waiting, the Premier League is set to resume with the government’s backing on 17 June. The reality, however, is that it has not been an eternity. In fact, by the time the league restarts, it will have been only 96 days since it was suspended. What is more shocking is that more than 100 people have died due to COVID-19 every day since the 22nd March, so does the reintroduction of a physical competitive sport really make any sense?
It seems as though the prospect of financial catastrophe is all the sense we need. It could be seen as quite ridiculous that, according to the government, people can’t hug their friends and family, visit people in hospital or properly pay their respects at a funeral, but football is allowed to return. But hey, refraining from hugging doesn’t damage the economy, does it?
Don’t get me wrong, I was selfishly delighted to find out the Premier League was coming back. I can’t be the only one that has been crying on the weekends at the lack of entertainment, and wishing that FIFA was more realistic. Needless to say, the return of the Premier League will certainly boost public morale. It will give many people a reason to get out of bed in the morning, a new topic of conversation or even just a welcomed distraction from the usual doom and gloom. On the other hand, we may see a rise in public gatherings outside stadiums on match days and fans will be tempted to break social distancing guidelines in order to watch the games together.
Aside from the restart’s obvious implications for public safety, we must consider what the return of the Premier League means for the 2019/2020 season and for the teams involved. We can’t deny that finishing all fixtures clearly represents the fairest way to end the season, albeit the most dangerous.
One alternative would be to end the season as it stands, much like the situation with the SPFL, which recently announced the end of the season.
If we were to end the Premier League season as it currently stands, teams such as Bournemouth and Aston Villa would potentially be unfairly relegated and teams like Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United would miss out on Champions League qualification that they otherwise could have achieved.
The other option would have been to declare the season null and void, which would obviously deprive Liverpool of their first Premier League title, which they are a mere six points away from securing.
But why now? Surely there would be enough time to complete the season in late July and August, just before the 2020/2021 season begins. It’s not as if the players need a summer break after spending months in lockdown. If it is possible to complete the season under even slightly safer circumstances, then why should we rush things now? When the Premier League was suspended, there had been only 18 deaths in the previous 24-hour period. As of the time of writing, there have been 111 deaths across all settings in the last 24 hours. So why is it deemed safe to resume the Premier League season now, when there are still over six times the amount of daily deaths as when the league was suspended?
Whether we like it or not, the Premier League is coming back, and I’m sure we will all enjoy watching football again. We must brace ourselves, however, for an era of football we have never witnessed before. Those that have been watching the Bundesliga recently will tell you that games in the ‘Covid Era’ are, quite frankly, bizarre. But who knows, the lack of a crowd may help us focus on the actual game again, rather than chants, home advantages and crowd disruption. One thing is for sure: the heat will be taken away from VAR… for the time being.