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Premier League vs. COVID-19: A match for the ages

Anfield, home of Liverpool Football Club

The United Kingdom is taking massive steps in trying to bring back the “normal” in an otherwise abnormal time, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out a detailed plan to the British public. The goal? Life with no social distancing restrictions, but with stages that will ensure a slow, but steady progress in the plan. Those stages include being allowed to see friends at their homes with social distancing measures intact. You can go to the park and exercise. The government hopes that by June 1, the lockdown measures placed on the country will expire. Sporting events are a significant part of the plan for reopening, which will have to happen under government provision and, most likely, no fans. Among those excited are the owners of ANY Premier League club. Soccer, or as the British call it, Football, is the primary source of entertainment in England. Some of the biggest celebrities in the country are footballers for the biggest clubs in England. This sport is more than just a pastime for many in the country, serving as an essential part of peoples’ lives. So can you imagine the uproar that comes with taking that joy away? People have resorted to watching old YouTube highlights of favorite moments from seasons prior, myself included. The Premier League coming back may bring happiness and joy to many, but is that worth the potential harm to these players? Danny Rose, a Left Back on loan at Newcastle United from Tottenham FC, was on Instagram Live this week talking about the potential return of the Premier league. “People’s lives are at risk. Football shouldn’t even be spoken about until the numbers have dropped massively ... I listened to the announcement yesterday, no football until June 1 or something, I don’t even pay attention to any of that,” said Rose on Monday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Rose does have a point. The U.K has the highest amount of deaths in the whole continent with over 32,000, according to Reuters. They also have over 223,000, which is the most in Europe as well. Moreover, coupled with the fact that many Brits are “baffled” by the plan that Johnson and the U.K. government laid out, maybe bringing back the Premier League isn’t as high as once thought. The country may feel that they need the sport back in the country for the morale of the citizens. Staying locked up at home, while helpful at times, can conjure up an obvious problem: boredom. Football fans from Liverpool to London need their fix of weekend Premier League clashes as if to make them feel sane again.

However, the owners and government may feel the need to bring back the Premier League for another reason. According to The Guardian, the three major sporting bodies in Britain, the Football League, Rugby Football Union, and England & Wales Cricket Board, all report that they could be facing losses of £700 million between the three of them. The blow to the economy of the nation is enormous, and the government understands that wholeheartedly. Perhaps that is the reason the United Kingdom is tripping over itself, trying to find a way to resume a healthy life, even if they do not have a firm grasp of the magnitude of the pandemic. It’s one thing for scientists and other experts to be calling the continuation of a sports league unsafe. But when the players of that league feel unsafe? There is an entirely different problem. Premier League players have every right to fear for their safety. Three players from Brighton & Hove Albion FC have tested positive for the virus earlier this month. These athletes have families, and playing may put those loved ones at risk. On the other hand, some athletes do want to come back and play. And while it may pose a threat to those athletes, as last weekend’s UFC event showed, sports does boost the morale of a nation that has been in lockdown for about two months. However, those athletes are few and far between. A poll conducted by YouGov showed that 73% of the players surveyed said they did not believe bringing back the Premier League would boost the morale of the nation. The U.K. government and the Premier League are facing the ever so serious question: Profits or safety?


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