It will be some time before we can accurately assess the effect the ongoing lockdown is having on people’s mental health. I know from speaking to mental health professionals that the situation is worsening week by week with more and more people suffering from anxiety and stress caused by concerns over employment, money, restrictions on movement, inability to see family and friends and a lot more.

Against this background having football to watch on TV is a link to normality and gives people a lift when they are surrounded by a daily media diet of doom and gloom. The protocols established in stadia and training grounds around the UK have been of the highest order and I am opposed to a suspension of the current season because of an increased number of positive tests at a number of clubs. We are already seeing a significant cancellation of cancer and cardiac procedures and if you add the mental health issues into the mix people need sport to continue. It provides a much-needed distraction from the problems of everyday life.

What doesn’t help in this situation is the irresponsible behaviour of a small number of players. Footballers are role models and with the infection rates increasing through the new COVID strain it was pretty obvious that players from different clubs in particular should not mix but that is what a small of number players did over Christmas and it is unforgivable. It sends out all the wrong signals and I am not sure that ‘reminding players of their responsibilities’ goes far enough.

For a player to hold a New Year’s Eve Party displays an arrogance that sets those involved apart from the struggles of most of the population. To have images displayed on social media is beyond belief and must be demoralising for NHS frontline staff in particular. It is not as though these are the first players to be involved in breaking Government restrictions in 2020 and the previous incidents were so high profile they should have served as a stark warning but clearly not for some. Most importantly of all it not only lets down the overwhelming majority of players who are following the rules but potentially puts them at risk of capturing this awful disease. By the way if there are fines levied, I would hope that money finds its way to the NHS.

We now enter 2021 with hope that the new Covid vaccines can be administered as soon as humanly possible and that we can start to get back to a normal life and that fans can return to grounds in ever increasing numbers as the year progresses. Let’s hope so. Like so many others, I miss my bi-weekly dose of football and my pre-match routine and need it back in my life!

Peter Varney – Integral Sports Management

For more information, contact enquiries@integralsportsmanagement.co.uk

Image – Getty Images.

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