The Coronavirus pandemic is the single biggest challenge the world has faced in a generation and with the numbers of those infected rising daily it is only right that the Government should take effective measures to control the virus.
Having said that the measures taken must be proportionate, equitable and consistent. There will almost certainly be a vaccine at some stage in 2021 but if by that time we have mass unemployment, record NHS waiting lists and a national mental health crisis then the actions of the Government will come under the closest scrutiny.
Maybe not as high up on the list but important nonetheless is what happens to our national game. With no spectators being allowed into matches there is no doubt that some clubs will go bust. Unfortunately, the public at large only see the riches in the Premier League and think all of football is like that, but it isn’t. Football clubs across the country are at the centre of so much valuable community work and if that is lost there will be a serious impact on the communities they serve.
Just look at the work clubs have done in relation to food banks and ensuring that children who would otherwise go hungry get to eat. Clubs are a key element of social cohesion and the demise of clubs will impact negatively on that. Young people in particular need an outlet and football provides that and the sad reality is that if football is no longer that outlet they will find other ways to meet up which are far more risky from a health perspective than attending a football match in the open air with socially distancing measures in place.
Clubs in the lower leagues need help to get through this health crisis. Yes the Premier League should offer some financial assistance to the lower divisions but the Professional Footballers Association should also be part of any rescue package, as it is their members who will lose their jobs, and let us also not forget the betting companies who make millions from football.
Finally, we saw again at the weekend how ridiculous the new handball rule is. To be an offence, handball should be penalised only if it is deemed to be deliberate. The decision in the Spurs v Newcastle Utd match was ridiculous and was actually criticised by both managers which says it all. The rule must change and quickly.
Peter Varney – Chairman, Integral Sports Management
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