It took just one case of coronavirus – Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta – for the Premier League to shut-down. Imagine if that had occurred in other sectors – even those that we wouldn’t call essential – such as hospitality, non-food retail, parts of the media, various trades connected to building etc, all of which are struggling on.
Then there are huge parts of the economy where people have to work or else society would collapse. The NHS comes to mind first but there are so many others you often don’t think of as essential such as food, utilities, IT, finance, transport, law and order, social care and a wide range of other public services. It seems to me that most people do something pretty much essential to modern life.
In some of the statements about the shutdown the various football authorities talk of the need to safeguard fans and others that work in the world of football. It doesn’t feel like that to me, it feels like it’s all about the footballers and their families.
Writing in the first of his Sunday Times columns this weekend, Wayne Rooney bleated that footballers were being treated as “guinea pigs” during the coronavirus outbreak.
“For players, staff and their families it has been a worrying week,” he said. “One in which you felt a lack of leadership from the government and from the FA and Premier League.”
“I think a lot of footballers were wondering, ‘Is it something to do with money being involved in this?’. Why did we wait until Friday? Why did it take Mikel Arteta to get ill for the game in England to do the right thing?”
The truth is, of course, these young super-fit footballers with access to the finest healthcare would likely only exhibit the mildest of symptoms if they were infected and then only for just a few days. If, understandably, they are worried about their families they should self-isolate like the rest of us have to when we start displaying symptoms.
The point about spectators is a valid one but what’s to stop the matches from being played behind closed doors and televised free-to-air?
While football is far from being an essential industry it matters an awful lot to an awful lot of people. When I think of my elderly relatives who are already self-isolating for what could be 100 days they already spend a huge amount of time watching sport on TV.
It’s often said misquoting Karl Marx that football is the opiate of the masses. Being able to watch football would make a huge difference to those who are stuck indoors or not feeling well giving them a sense of normality, something else to think about, something to look forward to.
I think it’s about time our elite footballers stopped thinking about just their own well-being, return to doing what they do best, finish the season and give something back to the community at this very difficult time.