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Roker Ramble: Is football finally eating itself?

The powers that be will seemingly go to any lengths to get this season finished - no matter what it does to the game itself.

A Premier League Match Ball with a Protective Face Mask Photo by Visionhaus

There’s been a saying going round since the Premier League became less about football and more about money that, ‘football will eat itself’. Well if they’re not sat at the table now getting stuck right in, then they’re certainly sipping the wine and waiting for the first course.

This, right now, is football’s ‘charge of the light brigade’ moment, utter madness unfurling before our eyes and no one with either the courage, the sense, or the voice to call it for what it is.

The scrabble to finish the Premier League under any circumstances is an embarrassment not just to the sport but to the country. Club chairman have talked about wanting to finish the season ‘with integrity’ – well the integrity train stopped about a month ago, we’re well into bloody la-la land now with some of the suggestions being bandied around.

It never ceases to amaze me just how may vested interests there are involved in running the world of football, seemingly endless lists of names and bodies all responsible for different facets of the same thing, and none of whom can agree on how to move forward in the current situation.

But not in the Premier League
Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images

The obvious answer is to draw a line under the season and start again from scratch when it’s safe to do so. If we had a government of any credibility they would’ve imposed this weeks ago and we wouldn’t have to be going through this absurdity. But we don’t, and the vested interests in football need the Premier League to finish because they literally can’t afford for it not to.

And it is just the Premier League that’s being debated seemingly, as rumour has it that the lower leagues will just be told that the season is over, which if true is yet another outrageous example of discrimination involving the top tier of the sport.

So, what’s been decided so far? Actually, nothing, but the main tenets of the exercise are that there will be eight to ten neutral grounds where all the games will be played behind closed doors. Why neutral grounds? I think it’s to discourage travelling, and I’m pretty sure St James Park won’t be one of them, so the Newcastle team at least are going to be covering the country like The Hollies Farewell Tour.

And for any decision to be binding all clubs involved have to agree, and given that Brighton, Villa and Watford are all against using neutral venues then it’s a bit of a non-starter.

It’s also been suggested that teams can use up to five substitutes, plus a sixth in case of extra time, just to make sure as many people are potentially exposed as possible, for not only is it the intention to finish the 92 games that are still outstanding, but to do so in time to be ready for the start the new season as usual in the summer.

Could be sitting this one out.
Photo credit should read Ian MacNicol,Ian MacNicol/AFP via Getty Images

But what about the players? Sergio Aguerro has come out and admitted that he and the majority of players are scared about coming back to play – an opinion not upheld by the chief executive of the Professional Footballers Association, Gordon Taylor:

It’s not a question of being scared, it’s a question of being fully informed…

Well, if I was a black player, and I’d just been informed that I was four times more likely to die from Covid 19, then ‘scared’ would pretty accurately describe how I was feeling, and if the head of my association was earning upwards of £2 million a year, I’d expect a little bit more bloody support.

Gordon Taylor also came out and announced that they were looking into having “shorter halves,” and I wanted to point out that you can’t have a shorter half, a half is a half, but then I’m not getting paid £2 million per year to do my job badly. £2 million per year, which, for the record, he refused to take a pay cut from at the start of lockdown.

2019 PFA Awards - Grosvenor House Hotel
Gordon Taylor on the right - amply demonstrating the shorter half.
Photo by Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images

Meanwhile, nestling in the top branches of the crazy tree is Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish who’s written – in The Times no less:

I’ve seen all the proposals for training and travel and, while there are challenges, those proposals offer a level of protection to players, staff and officials that I believe will render Premier League football one of the safest places in society to co-exist, much safer than a journey to the supermarket at present

“One of the safest places in society to co-exist”? I can’t believe he actually said that. And much safer than a journey to the supermarket where the danger of being taken out by a sliding tackle in the pet food aisle is far in excess of that in a football match.

Well, Steve, what happens when one player deliberately coughs in another’s face – a simple yellow?

Coronavirus - Thu Apr 16, 2020
Lifting the nation...
Photo by PA Video/PA Images via Getty Images

Dominic Raab said in one of the daily briefings this week that restarting football would “lift the spirits of the nation.” As usual he doesn’t have a clue.

This would not be the football that we know: the weekend routine, the matchday experience, the atmosphere, the essence of the game that we love. This would be a sterile, sanitized (literally) facsimile, being ground out for one reason only: money and having nothing at all to do with sport or the game itself. This is football eating itself.

Barney Ronay recently noted that:

What is certain is that the football produced at the end of this process will look terrible and feel terrible. This is sport as a punishment, sport to be forced down the gullet like bad medicine.

Your know what, M.r Raab, would actually lift the spirits of the nation was knowing that front-line doctors, nurses and carers were adequately protected whilst trying to do their jobs.

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