When talking about football, we have to accept from the outset that it is a frivolous activity. Of course it doesn’t matter as much as people’s lives. That’s something that even the most ardent of supporter will readily accept as truth. Yet that doesn’t stop us being passionate about the sport, thinking about it all the time and discussing it whenever we can. It is the world’s most popular pastime, so it’s hardly surprising that football fans around the globe would spend time speculating what’s going to happen in the sport once the Coronavirus pandemic settles down. Doing so doesn’t make us thoughtless or mean that we’re ignoring the seriousness of the situation, but is our way of finding an escape from the doom and gloom that is prevalent everywhere we look. No one thinking about football at a time like this is being ignorant of the state of the world, but it’s important to spell that out before writing anything further.
What follows is a thread about the football season. Sorry. But first, the caveat: no, football isn’t important at the moment; but yes, it’s OK to be interested in how it will play out, either as a bit of escapism, or because it means something to you.
— Rory Smith (@RorySmith) March 27, 2020
It’s also important to acknowledge that writing the piece I’m writing in that context runs the risk of me sounding like a spoilt child. “I want things my way or I’m going home”. As you’ll hopefully come to realise, that simply isn’t the case. It’s not about throwing toys out of the pram or wanting some sort of sympathy. It’s just about being honest about how I’m feeling right now. In truth, I’ve been feeling slightly detached from football for some time. Ever since I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the summer of 2018, I’ve found that virtually everything feels somehow distant from me. It’s as though I’m looking at the world through someone else’s eyes, unable to feel as strongly about things as I did before because everything feels out of arm’s reach. This article is written from that perspective, so do bear that in mind as you read it. I always wondered if there would be anything that would push me away from football. Now I’ve got a better idea of the answer.
It’s Not About Liverpool
Obviously my love of Liverpool Football Club will always mean that I have a preference for this season to be finished. That the Reds are so close to their first title in thirty years means that it would be heart-breaking if this Premier League season was ended early. Yet if it was for the right reason then I think everybody could get on board with the decision. If there was shown to be any logic behind the campaign being drawn to a close ahead of time then I think most sensible people would accept it, knowing that it was for the greater good. The issues with the current discussing around voiding the season is that there’s no logic behind it, no sense of that greater good being the reason. As things currently stand, we have zero idea when this crisis is going to be over. No cure has been identified, no vaccine discovered. Even when either of those things are found it will take months for them to be tested and just as long for them to be put in place.
A number of Premier League clubs want to end the current season with immediate effect and replay it in full once it is deemed safe to do so — even if that means #LFC being denied a first title in 30 years.
More from @David_Ornstein.
— The Athletic UK (@TheAthleticUK) March 27, 2020
With that in mind, there’s zero guarantee that football could begin again in August even if we decided right here and right now to end this season without a conclusion. There seems to be a desire to focus on the importance of a campaign that isn’t yet underway in favour of one that is nearly complete, which is just bizarre. What good would voiding this season do if it turned out that the next one couldn’t be started for six months anyway? Then, when the next campaign eventually did begin, what guarantee would we have that that would finish and that there would be no flaring up of the Coronavirus once more, or a mutated version of it that the vaccine and cure didn’t work for? There’s no doubt that the calls to scrap this season are coming from voices with a vested interest, be they teams in the relegation zone or the likes of Tottenham, who will almost certainly miss out on the Champions League if this campaign is concluded.
Effort Deserves To Be Rewarded
If this season is made null and void then I don’t think I’d ever be able to trust the competition again. How must the players and fans of the sides in the divisions below the National League be feeling this morning, having been told that the campaign that they spend the best part of a year getting involved with has been scrapped? One of the teams had won all twenty-seven of the games that they’d played, being twenty point clear at the top of the table. How will those players get themselves geed up for any more football, knowing that it can just be cancelled at the whim of the powers that be? If the effort that they’ve put in isn’t rewarded, it will surely be incredibly difficult for anyone involved to think that it’s worthwhile. Vested interests simply cannot be allowed to dictate things to the rest of the league or any time a team is struggling then their owners or directors will just look for an excuse to call a halt to proceedings.
Klopp on NHS staff: “Yesterday I was sent a video of people in the hospital just outside the intensive care area and when they started singing You’ll Never Walk Alone I started crying immediately. It’s unbelievable. I couldn’t admire them more and appreciate it more.” #LFC
— James Pearce (@JamesPearceLFC) March 27, 2020
Returning to the personal, I know that I would find it really difficult to reengage with football given the looming possibility that every result, every hard fought victory, every moment I’d celebrated could wiped out in a second. I imagine Leeds, Leicester City and Manchester United fans would feel the same way. Yes, the success that their teams are on the precipice of achieving would be part of that, but I can’t help but think that I’d also have the same thoughts if I supported Norwich or Aston Villa. Any sense of fairness would be consigned to the dustbin of history if the league campaign is made null and void. Football would lose any real sense of meaning. Of course we’re living in extraordinary times, but that means that there’s a need to find extraordinary solutions. The argument that it wouldn’t be morally right for football to carry on is a nonsense. You only need to look around to know that football could be needed now more than ever.