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Game Venues Could Be Kept Secret When Football Returns
Friday, 1st May 2020 10:13

The Football authorities and the Government have been looking at all potential issues that need to be overcome when football returns and they are already looking at ways to prevent fans turning up at closed doors stadiums.

Social media has been full of supporters full of righteous indignation at any news that there is a plan to restart football, what they don't seem to take into account though, is that in any walk of life plans have to be made, they are not always able to be put into action, but you can't just wait until something has happened to do something, you have to have the plan in place.

The problem with this awful Corona virus pandemic or Covid 19 whatever we want to label it, is that when it hit we had little intel on what we could do to combat it, we had to be reactive and when you do that mistakes are always going to be made and deaths were going to occur whether you make the right or wrong decisions and indeed in the early stages you don't find out if something is right or wrong with anything but trial and error.

So the fact is that everything about moving forward in this current situation is always going to be predictive and can never be done with any real certainty about what will happen next.

That being the case football has some big issues to contend with for it to re start and they have to make plans to tackle them well ahead of the event.

Some people have said we are in a War situation against this virus and to a degree they are right, but in Wars you have to maintain morale, during the blitz, football matches were played and dance halls were open, the Government knew the importance of trying to keep normal life going and carrying on.

I have seen in the media that this is very much a war on two fronts, the first being the general population and the second the care homes, and they are very much two seperate fronts, we can win the war on one whilst the other is still raging. Both have very different needs and issues and both are important as each other.

So football has to make plans, this week I have seen people ranting on line about how can football re start whilst the Death toll rises, the first point is it is not planning to re start now but in around 6 weeks, as I say this is a predictive war on Covid 19 and the prediction is that by the time football has resumed the death toll will have much reduced.

But it is not the death toll now the government is looking at, it is the current number of new cases being diagnosed now, because that is the indication where we will be in numbers at any given time.

Germany stated football would return and Death numbers went up a day or so after and people said see it is not safe, but the truth is the Germans knew that the numbers would rise as they knew how many were in hospital etc, the people look at how many are dying and I am not slating that, but Governments have to look at where the numbers will be in 4 weeks time and if hospital admissions are down now then death tolls will follow.

Covid 19 is not an instantaneous killer, it is a disease and we are starting to get to grips with it and learning something new every day.

So in respect to football the Government has been keen to see it restart at some point for not only a morale booster but to kick start the economy, the sooner that we get things moving the sooner that money can be diverted from the coffers that are now paying out businesses to furlough workers and can be put into the NHS, football is a small part of that buts a significant one as it is big business.

If 10 Premier League matches played behind closed doors means 3,000 people are taken out of furlough to facilitate these games, then that is money that go to fighting the virus and not poverty.

The biggest consideration though has to be health, so far all of these issues have been dealt with as they have cropped up, some on social media are saying that playing a football match in an empty stadium is a danger as it could pass the virus on.

I would say they are not looking at the facts, 300 people in a stadium all of whom have been tested for the virus both before and after games is going to be probably the safest enviroment in the country, I know I would rather be playing for Saints in a closed doors Premier League match against Brighton this weekend than having to go to Tesco's, I know what is the most dangerous.

So are all issues have been carefully considered and tackled and decisions made by medical and scientific experts who have been constantly working on this virus and actually know as much as can be known about it as anyone else in the country, yet I see people on social media constantly telling the World they know better.

The last big issue is that of large number of supporters turning up at the grounds, they won't get in but they will feel they are supporting their team if they are there, so how do you stop that.

At first it was thought closed doors stadiums was the answer but it has now been realised that this will not be enough especially for a big game such as say Liverpool winning the League.

So now it is likely that many games will not be played home or away but at a neutral venue, that could be another Premier League ground, it could be a training ground like Staplewood, a place not easy to get too in numbers even from Southampton, it could be played at the FA complex at St Georges Park suggest venues, but it could also be played at a venue that will remain secret until the moment the game is actually broadcast on TV.

That would solve the problem of fans congregating at stadiums to be present at the game even if not inside the ground itself, If Liverpool were winning the title at Staplewood, even the most diehard Scouser would not be able to make it down to Marchwood from Liverpool until hours after the game.

Of course their will be some who would try to go to stadiums, but truth is they are probably far fewer in number than the thousands who currently flout the social distancing rules in every part of the country as most will testify they see.

Those limited numbers the police could cope with, it is mas gatherings they would struggle to stop.

It is of course not an ideal way to end a season, Brighton chief executive Paul Barber says being unable to play all games home and away as planned would be a "further imperfection" on top of the already accepted imperfection of playing behind closed doors.

Yes it would be, but these are not perfect times and I'm sure that everyone connected with football would rather see titles and promotions and relegation's settled by an actual game wherever it is played than any other option including that of voiding the season, most who propose this seem to be going on club loyalties or dislikes.

So when football re starts it will be done when it is safe and with common sense and every issue considered and dealt with.

But these are only plans at present and people are getting hot under the collar on supposition and speculation, these same people would be the first too moan if we got to mid June and lockdown is ended and we could have played the remaining games, they would have turned on football and accused them of being incompetent for not planning for this, they are in a no win situation here.

The thing to do now whether in football or in life in general is to make plans to go forward, plans that can be changed as the situation dictates, plans give you hope for the future, something to look forward to, even if they don't happen.

Most of my plans for the last six weeks and indeed May are now up in smoke, but that doesn't mean I don't keep making new ones for when this virus is over.

A long winded article and one that some would say that I am not qualified to write, they are right, I no nothing about stopping this virus or how it will progress in the next month, but neither do those telling me it would be dangerous to re start football.

Photo: Action Images

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highfield49 added 11:53 - May 1
Let's face it none of us are qualified to give more than an opinion on playing matches whether based on scant evidence or sheer conjecture. Provided that the coming weeks allow for greater numbers of people to return to their jobs, with the risk quantified, then closed doors football becomes more realistic. Staplewood and similar facilities where road and pedestrian traffic can be reasonably regulated would seem to be a sensible approach. indeed playing one morning game and one in the afternoon at remote venues, featuring different teams, might even be logistically possible. If the players are willing to play and health and safety assessments are in place it could work. I am presuming that VAR would have to take a back seat for the duration unless it is feasible to relocate the system from stadiums in the interim period. As you say Nick, no harm in putting plans in place but lets not forget that the driving force shouldn't be about Liverpool winning a title or Leeds getting promoted, club and supporter wants are insignificant compared to, firstly, health and, secondly, economic needs.

saintmark1976 added 13:14 - May 1
A well balanced post Nick which I am delighted to see did not touch upon anything connected with the politics surrounding the current situation. Long may that aspect continue to be the case going forward please.

My own view for what it is worth is that ultimately the players themselves may well decide that however small the risk of infection is through playing they won't want to take it. After all how many of us would wish to put our health and multi million pound annual income on the line to play nine games of football?


obelisk added 07:48 - May 2
Given Saints poor home form I'm quite relaxed about the idea of playing remaining games at neutral venues.

underweststand added 15:21 - May 3
Apparently...... there is a suggestion / offer / idea that the remaining fixtures could take place in Australia (!).

so... the only problem is transporting the 500+ players PLUS back-up staff the odd 18,000 miles down-under ..where it is soon the Aussie winter, and keep everyone in quarantine until the various match days. I don't recall reading that Australia is totally Corona free either - despite the huge geography there. AND the idea of staying awake every night to watch the games on TV isn't the most attractive thought is it ?

If we are looking for a totally Corona-free environment ..there is always North Korea.... ..they have had no reported cases at all........

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