‘Premier League clubs fear the season will not be completed’ – John Cross, Daily Mirror, March 14.
‘The FA Cup is in serious jeopardy with no decision on whether it can go ahead expected until next month’ – John Cross, Daily Mirror, March 15.
‘Gareth Southgate could see England games put on hold for a YEAR’ – John Cross, Daily Mirror, March 16.
It kind of feels like one catch-all, no-one-has-a-clue-what-is-going-to-happen-because-obviously-they-don’t-but-we-need-an-update story would do.
We in recession, but let me take a crack at it
It is in the depths of the Daily Mirror where Stan Collymore tries to rein in a horse that has not only bolted but been turned into glue and lasagne. He wants to know why the Premier League hadn’t already been saving for this apparent inevitability.
‘If the coronavirus pandemic has taught the Premier League one thing already it’s that more of the feast has to be saved for the next time there’s a famine.’
It is literally the first time England’s top flight has been suspended since 1939. How do you propose we prepare for ‘famines’ that only happen every 70 or so years?
‘If the top flight had a sane and sensible approach over the years they’d have taken 10 per cent from every TV deal and put it away in a rainy day fund.
‘Had they done that, my guess is there’s be in excess of £10billion there now.’
Your masterplan is to have the foresight to put a spare 11-figure sum away just in case? To trust the Premier League with a £10billion ‘rainy day fund’ in the rare event that the entire campaign is sidetracked by a global pandemic?
‘That sort of money could have helped prop up the whole English game during a period such as this one – and would have made life a lot less stressful than it already is for those at the lower end of the pyramid.’
It could have. And they do have a duty to help sides in the lower leagues. But in this scenario you’re entrusting the Premier League, an organisation that asked all 20 clubs to put £250,000 each into a collection fund for departing executive chairman Richard Scudamore in November 2018, with £10billion.
What happens if, as with the past 73 seasons, everything goes smoothly?
‘So rather than just acting as an agent for Premier League teams the next time the TV rights deals are thrashed out, I want the Premier League board to say, ‘Right, it’s an £8bn deal, here’s £7bn between you and we’ve no problem how you spend it. But we’re keeping £1bn back to safeguard us against future doomsday scenarios like this one.’
Because 10% of £8bn is famously £1bn. There’s that famous Collymaths.
And Mediawatch very much enjoys the idea of ‘safeguarding against future doomsday scenarios’ like this unprecedented situation. Is the idea to just keep that £10billion on top of the fridge for the next seven decades now?
‘Would we like to see the champions of Europe crowned this season? Of course we would. But the notion we want it so desperately that UEFA should drag the teams left in the tournament to Istanbul so they can cram the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals into three days is just plain wrong.’
It certainly is. The actual plan – of which there are bound to be many – is for the quarter-finals to be one-legged ties played either at one of the home stadiums or a neutral venue, with the semi-finals and final held in Istanbul over five (sorry, FIVE) days. So you were close.
And completing the hat-trick, Stan offers an actual solution after adopting the voice of Gazprom (genuinely) and suggesting that an abridged Champions League would have no ‘credibility’.
‘I would then go one step further and say, ‘If our leagues are not able to fulfil their fixtures then UEFA’s co-efficient ranking system will decide who is in both competitions next season’.’
Awfully sorry Leicester (3rd), Chelsea (4th), Wolves (6th) and Sheffield United (7th), but Liverpool and Manchester City will be joined by Manchester United (5th) and Arsenal (9th) in the Champions League when it returns. Because that isn’t really stupid.
‘That would of course mean Leicester City wouldn’t qualify for the Champions League. And that’s unfortunate.’
Stubbing your toe is unfortunate. Losing a £5 note is unfortunate. Telling the team in third that the side six places and 13 points below them is qualifying for a tournament based on previous seasons is b*llocks.
‘But you have to make decisions based on the best possible evidence you have available and that metric works.’
If only we literally had a season that was three-quarters complete and a table compiled of the results.
There is still some football taking place, with the Belarussian Premier League kicking off this week. Stick on a bet with Bet365 and you can actually watch it and get your fix. We fancy BATE Barisov.
Mediawatch understands the point Dave Kidd is trying to make in The Sun when he wonders why ‘there are fewer accusations of self-interest levelled at Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish’ for wanting the season to continue than there are at fellow columnist Karren Brady for calling it to be declared null and void if it cannot.
Dalglish obviously has as many – and as obvious – runners in this race as the West Ham vice-chairman. It would be foolish to pretend otherwise.
But Mediawatch has to point out that wanting a season to be played to its conclusion if possible – and Dalglish cited issues in the Scottish Premiership, Championship and SPFL League Two so was discussing football as a whole – is a patently more suitable solution than expunging a campaign that is more than three-quarters complete for many clubs and could still be finished if circumstances permit.
When Brady’s argument is that ‘who knows who would have gone down or come up if the games have not actually been played in full?’, it is not difficult to see how Dalglish might look at a 25-point gap over a Manchester City team with ten games remaining, a Champions League last-16 tie and an FA Cup quarter-final to contend with, and be a little perplexed, particularly considering there is a precedent for a runaway champion being named in an abandoned season.
But Kidd dedicates much of his column to holding football to account for its ‘prioritising of quantity over quality’ with a ‘horribly bloated’ fixture calendar.
Just one question: why are we pretending that any effort to postpone or cancel this summer’s European Championship ‘should be resisted’?
Here are some of the 12 countries proposed to host at least one game in the tournament:
Azerbaijan (have banned mass gatherings and imposed travel restrictions)
Germany (have closed its borders to all but commercial traffic)
Italy (literally the most affected country outside of Asia)
Russia (is expected to close its borders by Wednesday morning)
Spain (is experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases and has closed its borders)
So while ‘the international game ought to be cherished’ as ‘it remains the form of the game least tainted by greed and excess’ a continent-wide competition is probably not the way forward for now.
Sure, ‘nothing brings a nation together like a successful tournament campaign’. But nothing promotes the spread of a dangerous virus quite like the congregation of numerous people from different countries in one area when the recommendation is to self-isolate.
‘By accepting that internationals can be casually binned off, we’re falling for the agenda of the greediest, wealthiest clubs’ – Dave Kidd, The Sun.
Or not hosting a major sporting event during a global pandemic and instead prioritising finishing domestic seasons that are already more than halfway complete. Could be that.
Proceed with precaution
‘The precautions announced by PM Boris Johnson brought home to many the gravity of the situation’ – Martin Lipton, The Sun.
He told us that “the single best thing we can do, and it will be like that for a long time, is just wash our hands” less than a fortnight ago. The man is defying the gravity of the situation.
Opening paragraph of the day
‘UEFA ‘cancel all their hotel bookings in Copenhagen during Euro 2020′ in surest sign yet that summer tournament is set to be postponed at today’s crunch talks with Danish capital one of TWELVE cities due to host matches in June and July.’
Oh no, sorry. That’s a MailOnline headline. Of course it is. And breathe…