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Opinion

Biggest challenge with Premier League players…is if they now refuse to play

5 months ago
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Five weeks ago I wrote something about Premier League players during this virus crisis.

Difficult to believe because so much happening and the current situation so tense but back on 3 April when I wrote my piece and The Mag published it, the big debate at the time was what Premier League players were going to do financially to help during the virus crisis.

The government shamefully trying to deflect attention / criticism away from their shambolic handling of the virus crisis, by attempting to scapegoat Premier League players about whether they would take pay cuts and / or donate to NHS and other good causes in these troubled times. Quite pathetic that they picked out this one group of rich people and not the likes of bankers and other super rich individuals.

Anyway, back at the start of April my article was entitled: ‘Biggest challenge with Premier League players is not pay cuts, it is if they refuse to play.’

My point back then being:

‘Where I see a big issue arising is when you see comments from journalists and others, as well as fans, saying that even games behind closed door can only happen if it is 100% safe to do so.

Reality is that there will never be a time when it is ‘100% safe’ to play again, that doesn’t exist.

Instead, it will be a time reached when on balance it is the right time for Premier League games to be played again. A decision based on what medical experts say and what politicians will think is the best decision overall for society.’

We are now rapidly approaching that point, where Premier League players will be asked to train and play again, you know, like the rest of us, go to work.

The Bundesliga squads have been training for weeks now and Angela Merkel gave permission yesterday for them to kick off again this month and finish their season. There appears to be a real unity in Germany and undoubtedly their model / rule of fans owning the majority of every club, makes it a more collective all in it together mentality and responsibility between the players, the fans and those who run the clubs.

In the Premier League it is completely different, so much is about self-interest and not collective responsibility and duty. All clubs say they are committed to avoiding the financial and integrity disaster that would be the case if this 2019/20 season wasn’t concluded, yet already we hear of clubs who are saying yes they will agree to neutral stadiums BUT only if relegation was ruled out this season. So it is yes we will play but only if loads of matches will be meaningless and of no value to broadcasters who would then undoubtedly look to be compensated.

As for Premier League players and my fears five weeks ago that they could refuse to play…

Manuel Lanzini:

“For me, it would be crazy for the Premier League to resume until there is a vaccine to protect you. I wouldn’t start the Premier League again now.”

Sergio Aguero:

“The majority of players are scared because they have children and families.”

It would be at least a year before any vaccine could be widely available and there is actually a very real chance there might never be a vaccine found for this particular virus.

I am still seeing comments along the lines of if games start again, it would only take one new case of a Premier League player testing positive and all the games would have to grind to a halt. For me that is nonsense, what about every other industry and workplace in this country?

Whether it is the case now or when the rest of us go back to work, if somebody tests positive it won’t mean the whole supermarket, factory or whatever will have to close down. Any return to playing for Premier League players will only be with mass testing available and privately paid for by the clubs, just as is the case with the Bundesliga who could kick off as early as eight or nine days time. Their testing process has identified a small number of players testing positive, who are then isolated and everybody around them is then repeatedly tested and carry on then training and playing.

At some point we all have to get back to work, including Premier League players. It is not financially viable for the current measures to stay in place for long, the government paying people to stay at home. The furlough scheme is already set to cost at least £39billion and that doesn’t include the separate scheme for self-employed or other help for companies.

New cars sold in April 2020 were down 97% on the same month last year, the economy has to get back going with as many safety measures as possible in place for people.

Factories, shops, offices and every other walk of life having to deal with the balance of having to earn a living and staying healthy.

It is looking like there will undoubtedly be some Premier League players who will refuse to play, even when the decision is taken to resume with matches. That is when I think people would/will have massive problems with these individuals, unless they have an underlying medical condition.

Premier League players who have been able to live far more comfortably than the rest of us all through these months of crisis AND still picking up massive amounts of money, even with a pay cut and/or deferment. Then when it is time for them to go back to work, just like it will be for the rest of us, they say no.

The rest of us don’t have that kind of luxury to fall back on, enough money in the bank and status to think they don’t have to do the same as us.

If some players are going to insist they will only play again once everything is totally back to normal and fans can fill the stadiums as usual, the sport that finances their lifestyle could/would be fatally harmed, if enough of them refused.

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