Mediawatch special: The Sun, the Premier League and Chernobyl

Date published: Friday 1st May 2020 11:55

Premier League Brighton Coronavirus

Premier League players are ‘super-fit sportsmen’ who won’t die. And this isn’t Chernobyl. So ‘prophets of doom’ can bugger off.


Profits of doom
did not plan to dedicate an entire edition to the musings of Mark Irwin in The Sun, but it really was difficult to look beyond the amount of knots a football journalist is willing to tie themselves into to plead for football to come back.

‘PREMIER LEAGUE executives will hold their latest video conference today with the government’s Project Restart top of their agenda,’ is the unwittingly straightforward start to quite the journey.

‘Seven weeks after all sport in the UK was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, top-flight football is making tentative plans for a return to action.

‘A rare bit of good news in these times of fear and stress?’

Sure. Plenty will welcome the return of the structure football can provide to people’s lives. It can be a welcome distraction for many. It’s not a priority for most, if anyone outside that executive sphere, but still.

‘Not if you listen to the prophets of doom queuing to tell us the light at the end of the tunnel is simply an oncoming express train that is going to flatten us all.’

Is that a straw man you’re constructing? And do you consider your esteemed colleague to be one of said ‘prophets of doom’?

‘If these people have their way, football will remain on hold until there isn’t a single case of Covid-19 anywhere in the world.’

Are we meant to be outraged at this point? Is our reaction supposed to be one of anger and frustration towards those ‘prophets of doom’ who would rather a deadly virus was no longer present whatsoever before a contact sport involving hundreds of players and many more staff from around the world resumed?

F**king ‘prophets of doom’, trying their utmost to avoid adding to a soaring global death count.

Irwin notes that the virus will likely still be around by the end of next year, ‘if we’re lucky’. But ‘in the meantime, we all have to sit on our hands and wait for this crisis to miraculously sort itself out.’

The wait will be for a vaccine, not a ‘miracle’. Only a ‘prophet of doom’ would be relying on divine intervention.

‘But before we write off football’s comeback as a flawed ambition which is destined to fail, shouldn’t we actually give it a go?’

Those in charge should obviously consider it for that is their job. They will explore every possible avenue. They have been doing so. Everyone else quite justifiably would rather ensure it’s in the best interests of everyone instead of just TV companies and football clubs owned by billionaires.

If football can resume while guaranteeing the safety of everyone involved, brilliant. For as long as it cannot, it should not.

‘Of course there are dozens of hurdles to be overcome before the Premier League can resume.

‘But let’s try to come up with an answer to these issues rather than conceding defeat at the first fence.

‘And even if we do trip up along the way, what long-term damage will have been incurred?’

Death. Literal death. Of anyone. A player. A manager. A coach. A referee. A member of staff. A virus that has already infected 3.26m and killed more than 233,000 – and they are only the known confirmed figures – won’t really care that some people want the Premier League back.

Irwin thankfully points out that ‘no one is suggesting we start playing matches today, this week or even this month’. Much like no-one is ‘queuing to tell us the light at the end of the tunnel is simply an oncoming express train that is going to flatten us all’.

But he then says that each Premier League club will be testing employees regularly, which ‘would give anxious players the peace of mind they require to know they would not be putting their health in jeopardy by returning to work’.

Just look at how calm Sergio Aguero and Glenn Murray are, for example.

A reminder that there are stories of people falsely testing negative for the virus, or carrying and thus risking spreading it despite showing no symptoms. Footballers have families who they could inadvertently infect, their children or older relatives who are most susceptible. They might not be too keen on that, however slight the possibility.

‘Because where’s the risk if everyone involved is guaranteed coronavirus-free?’

How can you possibly consider the current situation and ever write ‘where’s the risk’ with a clean conscience?

‘Of course there might be some footballers who will suspect they are being used as sporting lab rats.

‘But it’s not as if they are being asked to put out the Chernobyl fire.’

Well then why stop at just bringing football back? Get them shaking hands, swapping shirts, spitting and sharing showers again.

Hell, bring schools back; it’s not as if teachers are being asked to put out the Chernobyl fire, is it?

‘As far as we are aware, only a handful of players have contracted the virus so far and hardly any required hospital treatment.’

The key there is contained in the first six words of that paragraph.

‘Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, British football’s first confirmed Covid-19 case, reckons it took him about four days to recover.

‘Thousands of people have not been so fortunate but very few of them were super-fit sportsmen whose heart and lung capacity is monitored on a daily basis.’

Again, that’s fine then. If something hasn’t happened yet it never will. No ‘super-fit sportsmen’ have died from the virus yet so they won’t. And their families are related to ‘super-fit sportsmen’ so must be similarly immune.

Young people with no underlying health conditions have died from the virus. Those of any age who have been afflicted but not died have most certainly suffered from it. It does not discriminate, whether your heart and lung capacity is monitored on a daily basis or not.

‘We have already wasted seven weeks wondering how to get football back on its feet.

‘Let’s not squander this opportunity without giving it our best shot.’

Have we really ‘already wasted seven weeks wondering how to get football back on its feet’? It feels more like football was inevitably postponed while a deadly virus was prevalent, and that the return of sporting events is obviously not top of most agendas.

Attempting to reduce the number of victims does not feel like a ‘waste’. And ‘giving it our best shot’ really does sound dangerously close to politicians imploring the population to evoke that good old-fashioned Blitz spirit. It is similarly meaningless.

Mediawatch understands the point Irwin is trying to make. He is not alone in wanting Premier League football to return, and is right in saying it won’t be within the next month. But it is irresponsible to dismiss people with legitimate medical and moral concerns as ‘prophets of doom’ and it is stupid to suggest footballers will be fine because they are athletes who will be regularly tested.

There is a reason that Premier League executives are exploring every possible avenue for it to return: that is their job. There is also a reason people are ‘looking for potential pitfalls’. When almost a quarter of a million people are confirmed to have died during a global pandemic, it rather focuses the mind as to what is necessary and what isn’t.

Football, however you frame it, isn’t.


And one last thing…
‘Arsenal TWELFTH as Man Utd miss top four as ‘fair’ formula works out Prem table’

Go on, The Sun website.

‘BOFFINS have devised a formula…’

Of bloody course they have.


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