We’ve all been sort of hanging around today, watching all sports in the world suspend operations, delay matches, or outright cancel sporting events due to the coronavirus pandemic. And naturally, we assumed that would extend to English football as well, because, hey — that seems like it’d be a pretty good idea, right? Especially when virtually every other football league in Europe has followed suit.
Shows how dumb I am. The English Football League (EFL), the organization that manages the FA Championship, League One, and League Two, released a statement that says this weekend’s matches will go ahead as planned, and open to spectators.
In light of today’s announcement by the UK Government, EFL matches will continue to take place as normal while the guidance from the relevant authorities remains that there is no medical rationale to close or cancel sporting events at this time.
The EFL, however, will continue to work with Government and relevant stakeholders to further develop contingency plans to ensure the League is best placed to act as and when any potential restrictions may come into force.
Immediately following the announcement by the Prime Minister, EFL Chair Rick Parry held discussions with the FA and Premier League and agreed on a consistent approach ahead of this weekend’s round of fixtures. Matters will be further discussed at a meeting called by European Football’s Governing body, UEFA, on Tuesday 17 March.
The League will continue to liaise with the Government regarding ongoing developments and will continue to work with Clubs to ensure players, staff and supporters are updated and appraised accordingly.
These matters are, of course, subject to change and we will update as appropriate.
The EFL does not manage the Premier League, obviously, but take a look at that third paragraph, specifically the part where they talk about “a consistent approach ahead of this weekend’s round of fixtures.” While we haven’t had a statement from the Premier League about this weekend’s matches, it certainly does sound as though all three organizations are in agreement that the show must go on, with fans in attendance.
There is real concern that postponing matches, or even holding matches behind closed doors, could bankrupt many smaller clubs in the lower leagues, and severely stretch the finances of even Premier League clubs that rely on gate receipts to survive. I get that. But come on.
I suppose the rationale the EFL is using here is that cancelling football matches while leaving, say, the Tube operational doesn’t really make a difference, or that the displacement effect would mean that crowds would just congregate elsewhere. But seriously, football leagues should be doing everything they can do to halt the spread of this virus. They can’t prevent fans from grouping together elsewhere, but they certainly can try and not enable mass gatherings of people where the virus can be transmitted.
It’s important to reiterate that haven’t heard from the Premier League directly about this, but all indications are that there will be, if not a full house, thousands of people in attendance at The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday when Spurs play Manchester United.
UPDATE: The Premier League has issued its own statement which confirms what we previously thought — league football is proceeding as normal, with full stadiums of spectators.
Following the latest update from Government issued this afternoon, all Premier League matches will go ahead as scheduled this weekend.
While the Prime Minister advised that all sporting events should take place as normal for now, he also indicated that Government is considering banning major public events, like sporting fixtures.
We are therefore continuing to work closely with our clubs, Government, The FA, EFL and other relevant stakeholders to ensure appropriate contingency plans are in place as and when circumstances change.
The welfare of players, staff and supporters is of paramount importance and we will continue to follow Public Health England guidelines thoroughly.
We will keep everyone updated as appropriate.