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Roker Ramble: Crisis? What crisis?

It feels like a free-for-all as English leagues try and decide how to finalise the 2019/20 season. Meanwhile footy has resumed in Germany, and is VR the answer to filling stadiums?

Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga
Players have had to resort to different ways of guaranteeing social distancing.
Photo by Michael Probst/Pool via Getty Images

Nature abhors a vacuum’ as they say, which is why you’ll never find a Dyson for love nor money in the Canadian Rockies. The old maxim is ably demonstrated by the efforts to bring the current football season to some sort of conclusion in ‘the best worst way’ .

In the absence of any sort of leadership from either the government or football authorities, it seems to be falling to the individual clubs to discuss amongst themselves how to wrap up the season for their own leagues.

It’s generally accepted that Leagues One and Two likely won’t finish their games because of the cost of testing required for players and staff. That means deciding on a method for determining promotion and relegation agreeable to all. Though, arguably, that’s like asking Donald Trump if he’d like to house Chinese covid victims in his private residence.

Tottenham Hotspur Return to Training Following the Relaxing of Covid-19 Restrictions Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

This week the culture secretary Oliver Dowden said the government was “opening the door” for football to return. I’ve no idea what he meant by that unless it was that their total inaction wouldn’t get in the way of any efforts by others to try and move the situation forward.

And if the government are serious in this ludicrous policy of encouraging the return of live games during a global pandemic then they need to underwrite those costs that are preventing the lower league teams from playing their games. That way the promotion and relegation issues are decided normally and all of the doubt and confusion goes away.

The danger now is that each league will come up with a different solution on how to proceed. League Two voted this week not to play their remaining fixtures, except the promotion playoffs, and have requested that Stevenage as bottom club, are not relegated.

General Views of Sport Venues after events postponed due to Covid-19
Well, at least they’re at home.
Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

League One have suggested a mini tournament between the top eight clubs to decide final positions at the top end of the table, but where does that leave Tranmere, just three points from safety, at the bottom?

The Championship have been quiet on possible scenario’s but the EFL’s contingency plan is to promote Leeds and West Brom plus the winner of the playoffs if all the fixtures can’t be finished.

That, however, is unacceptable to Norwich who’ve stated that:

What we could not accept is a situation where we play all our games and get relegated but the Championship can’t play and they automatically promote some teams who haven’t finished the season.

And who could argue with them? That’s why either all clubs play all their games or none do and we draw a line under the season. Any other way and the legal arguments are going to run for longer than Coronation Street.

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool FC - Premier League
Never hold back Danny, say what’s on your mind.
Photo by Jon Bromley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The players are also starting to speak out. Troy Deeney stated that if it’s not safe for fans to be in a stadium, how can it be safe for players? Clarity of thought like that would guarantee him a front bench position if he ever felt like going into politics. Danny Rose however, was a little bit more industrial:

It’s boll*cks. I don’t give a f**k about the nation’s morale. People’s lives are at risk

Reference to ‘the nations morale’ followed a comment from Dominic Raab about the return of football ‘lifting the spirits of the nation’. However, a YouGov poll published this week reported that 73% of people said the Premier League and EFL coming back would not lift their spirits... nice to know that government are still in touch with the pulse of the nation.

As if to underline the difficulties for players and clubs alike, a third Brighton player was confirmed this week as testing positive for the virus. However, far from empathising with the situation some have accused the club of deliberately infecting their players in order to get the season cancelled, which is right up there with stealing hand sanitizer from hospitals. People need to give their heads’ a shake sometimes.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, also said he was ‘open’ to football resuming but said we must ‘do everything we can to keep R down’.

So I guess Rotherham aren’t getting promoted this season?

Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga
The socially distanced goal celebration?
Photo by Michael Probst/Pool via Getty Images

No-one can accuse Germany of having a leadership vacuum and their football returned this week to competitive play in empty stadiums. Empty stadiums for everyone except Borussia Monchengladbach, who’re allowing fans to pay €19 to have a cardboard cut-out of themselves placed in the stands, thereby generating all of the atmosphere of a 1970’s Kraftwerk concept album.

I haven’t seen any of the games yet, and I am especially looking forward to the socially distant goal celebrations, but there’s scope here for a new footballing experience that I’m sure will catch on.

A suggestion’s been made already for an app which you can cheer, blaspheme and shout insults into, just as you would at the match and for these to be broadcast at the stadium to generate an atmosphere. I think it’ll generate an atmosphere in your living room as well, but baby steps people, baby steps. But then I started to think, what if you tied that in with virtual reality?

All the big clubs play to sell out crowds and will do so again when we’re on the other side of this. Say you’re a mad Liverpool fan and have always dreamed of standing on the Kop every week, but live abroad, or can’t get a ticket, or whatever. With an app that means you can join in the chanting and a VR set which places you in the Kop in real time, you can be ‘never walking alone’ with the crowd whilst desperately trying not to fall over your coffee table. It means the capacity of grounds wouldn’t be limited by their physical size and could be a huge income stream for clubs. I bet someone clever is working on it right now.

And talking of strong leadership, FIFA announced this week that the postponed Euro 2020 tournament now due to be played next summer, is still going to be called ‘Euro 2020’. They must’ve printed all the T-shirts already then.

2020 UEFA Euro countdown clock in St Petersburg updated Photo by Alexander Demianchuk\TASS via Getty Images

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