Opinion: Project Restart Must Go Ahead Despite Deeney, Rose Concerns

Empty stadia, boring atmosphere, fresh grasses but without action has been the reality of football fans over the last two months

Not since the start of World War II has the football world experienced what it is experiencing currently. For the past two months, major activities have been stalled worldwide as a result of the coronavirus.

The virus which originated from China has killed over 300,000 people, while more than five million people have contracted the virus.

To combat the outbreak, Government authorities in many countries imposed a lockdown, and that affected several activities, including football.

Except for German Bundesliga which resumed last weekend, top European Leagues are currently on hold, while some have been cancelled already.

Major international tournaments such as the Euros and Copa America scheduled for this summer, but the two events have now been shifted till next year.

Nonetheless, despite the disruptions caused by the virus, football is gradually making a return after almost three months without live-action.

As stated earlier, the German Bundesliga became the first major league to return when it resumed last weekend.

Other leagues plan to follow suit with the Premier League, La Liga and Italian Serie A all set to return in June.

However, some Premier League players have already expressed their fears about the plans to resume football with the virus still a concern.

This week, Premier League shareholders voted that clubs can start to train in groups, but Watford’s captain, Troy Deeney, revealed he wouldn’t be resuming training because he’s not willing to risk the health of his child who has breathing problems.

The likes of Willian and Danny Rose have also accused Premier League authorities of not caring about players safety, and this has caused a huge debate on if it’s a wise decision for games to resume.

While it’ll be harsh to dismiss the feelings or the opinions of these players, the truth is the earlier football resumes, the better it is for all parties.

A lot has been lost over the last two months as a result of no football, and it will only get worse should there be any more delay.

According to a report from Al-Jazeera, about 100-200 will go bankrupt as a result of the pandemic. Also Premier League sides, Liverpool and Tottenham furloughed their staff, although they reversed their decision following public outcry.

The Premier League stand to lose about £1.2b, while sports, in general, is set to lose about £14.2b in sponsorship and marketing.

The losses do not affect the clubs alone as it has a ripple effect. A lot of people have lost their jobs, while businesses that depend on football are currently fighting for survival.

Betting businesses, particularly in Africa, have been hit so hard due to lack of games. And at the same time, viewing centres and bars are also feeling the effect of the tragic situation.

According to the United Nations, hunger could be more deadly than coronavirus in poorer countries, and that leads to this question.

Have the players considered the workers and owners of these businesses that need football to survive? It must be pointed out that these effects are just for the first two months, so what will happen should we continue to delay football resumption?

Do these players realise that it’s just a matter of time before clubs start laying off staff? Spanish La Liga side, Malaga recently announced the termination of staff contracts. How long before other clubs follow in the same line??

Although it may be harsh, the truth is clubs are not generating revenue anymore since football is currently suspended, and they need to find a way to minimise cost, and the easiest way to do that is by laying off non-playing staff.

The players that are not comfortable with the resumption plans have always talked about safety. But the Premier League authorities have ensured they will train and play under the safest environment possible.

All members of the 20 Premier League clubs will undergo strict testing, so what’s the fear all about? If they feel it’s not safe for footballers to play, then what about the health line workers, cab drivers, and workers in other professions?

Does it mean the world should cease to exist because of coronavirus? It’s an unprecedented situation, but it’s something the world will have to live with including the players until a cure is found.

The UK media have also not helped with the hysteria they’ve created around the issue. The approach the Premier League is taking is not different from what the German Bundesliga did, and there were no issues reported when games resumed in Germany last weekend.

It’s also interesting to note that while these players have not been playing, they’ve been receiving their wages. How long can clubs continue to do this before they run into administration?

In conclusion, the players’ may be scared, but football has to resume and find a way to deal with the situation, or else the effect of its absence will be worse than that of the coronavirus.

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