All football matches in England will be played behind closed doors under government plans to combat coronavirus that could be triggered as early as today.
A meeting of the government’s Cobra committee this morning is expected to move its response to the pandemic from the “contain” phase to the “delay” phase. That will result in a crisis plan being unveiled for football. The Times can reveal:
● The current season will not be postponed and instead matches in the Premier League and lower divisions will be moved behind closed doors;
● All Premier League season-ticket holders and ticket holders for individual games will be able to stream coverage of matches into their homes;
● No games will be shown in pubs so as to avoid congregation of people;
● Premier League games will not be shown live in the 3pm slot on Saturday afternoons;
● Broadcasters will be permitted to screen more than one Premier League game during both the lunchtime and tea-time television slots on Saturday, and the scheduled slots on Sundays and Mondays; and
● Season-ticket holders and ticket holders for individual games at Football League clubs will be allowed to watch matches on iFollow streams.
The plan may be implemented once the number of UK coronavirus cases passes 500. Last night it stood at 460.
The dramatic moves are seen as the only potential way to end the present season in light of the growing coronavirus crisis in England and the growing possibility of the country being moved to the delay phase.
The government has been in discussion with the Premier League, the Football League and the Football Association about what can be done. The uncertainty over how the virus will develop and how long it will last are seen as reasons why English football will not be temporarily postponed. The forthcoming Euros also present a problem to the Premier League as to when this season would actually finish and how it could impact upon future campaigns.
Sporting integrity has been cited as a major factor in moving against the possibility of cancelling the season outright, although smaller clubs who are more reliant on gate receipts are worried about the financial implications of matches without ticket sales.
However, there are huge penalty clauses in the Premier League broadcasting contracts if the season was terminated rather than played to a conclusion. These would run into hundreds of millions of pounds for the Premier League and would most likely have to be passed onto the clubs, or alternatively would be clawed back by removing things such as parachute payments.
That is what has led to the solution of moving games behind closed doors.
The Premier League has been the last major organisation in Europe to move towards ending spectator attendance at their games.
So far the government has followed medical advice that has insisted the congregation of large crowds at outdoor events is not dangerous. However, it is the close proximity of supporters travelling, especially on trains, that is now seen as the biggest threat.
Under the plans, pubs will be ordered not to show live coverage of matches and will be threatened with the loss of their licence if they fail to comply. It is thought this will be policed strongly because of the risk to health.
The present proposals are to broadcast every single Premier League game. Every season-ticket holder, or anyone who has a bought a ticket for a game would get a free stream. Clubs would then be able to sell streams for their games to fans as well. Even given the extraordinary nature of the times, there is still a desire not to set a precedent by showing games live at 3pm on a Saturday, traditionally a protected slot to incentivise fans going to watch their local teams in person.
The Premier League has been in negotiations with the Football League to assure them that none of their games would be shown live at 3pm on a Saturday. Broadcasters would face less pressure in the unique environment to put matches directly up against other games. The solution would involve existing slots with potentially three games shown at the same time.
The decision by the Premier League to move all of their games away from the 3pm Saturday slot would allow the Football League to stream all of their matches at that time using the iFollow technology.
Most Football League clubs already have that technology installed to allow them to stream their games. Some clubs have their own streams but the technology is in place for every club to stream their games live.
There is still concern, however, at Football League level, about the loss of matchday income which in some cases at that level constitutes two thirds of their annual income. Talks have taken place at government level about whether there is compensation available. The chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a £30 billion package to help the country get through the coronavirus in his budget yesterday but it is unknown if any of that will be put aside for struggling football clubs fearful of going bust.
Playing games behind closed doors is now seen as the least bad option. It means that existing fixture schedules can be completed across all of the four main leagues in England. Most English clubs have at least nine league matches to play, plus the remaining rounds of the FA Cup and Champions League.
As it stands only players, team officials, broadcasters and journalists would be allowed to attend games in England. A further complication however would be if infection was to spread between players. At that point it is thought that the Professional Footballers’ Association would say that the danger to their members would be too great and games would be cancelled.
At present the Bundesliga in Germany and Ligue One in France have already gone behind closed doors, and one Division Two footballer in Germany has tested positive for the virus.
The Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has voiced his concern about playing games without supporters in attendance. “Does football work without spectators?” he said. “If the people can’t come, there is no sense. We will follow what we have to do, but I wouldn’t like to do it without the people.
“The other issue you have to ask is: is it worse to play football without the spectators? We do our job for the people and if the people cannot come to watch us, there is no sense.
“I would not love to play matches in the Premier League or Champions League or the cups without the people, but we will follow the instructions of the government.”
Discussions have shown that all eventualities are fraught with difficulties, but it is seen as the only way ahead.
"Cohle Island knows no King but the King in the North, whose name is Cantona."
I'm flying to Disney World (Florida) for two weeks on 9th May with my German fiancée (not covered by the travel ban as she hasn't been back since Christmas but you never know with US security...). Terrified it'll be cancelled in some way and I'm very stressed about it. I've been looking forward to the trip since we booked it over a year ago and will be devastated if it's cancelled, it's got me through all of my lower moments in the past year as I've been so excited. I know it sounds stupid, but it means the world to me.
Genuinely, the only solace I can think of right now is that Liverpool may be cost the league. That would be a sweet moment.
"Cohle Island knows no King but the King in the North, whose name is Cantona."
WhatsTheMata: sooooo some sort of indonesian wizard is cursing all of us
May 10, 2018 11:12:07 GMT
Deleted: 'indonesian wizard'
May 10, 2018 18:27:15 GMT
WhatsTheMata: Glad you think it's funny. When we get fucked around by the spells you just deleted you will take me seriously
May 19, 2018 11:57:48 GMT
No.7: Can this thread be unlocked or is it too early? not that i want Jose out now but i think were coming close to that time and want to hear peoples opinions on the subject.
Sept 20, 2018 10:15:25 GMT
cjjagzmoni: Pogba is a good lad minus the showboating..I think at Juventus he had Older players like Pirlo,Chiellini,Marchisio,Bonucci who shout and screams at him so he was more serious at Juve ,We dont have those type of leaders at United to caution him.
Nov 1, 2018 3:36:38 GMT
geo: Cardiff City - Huddersfield Town - Bournemouth - Newcastle United = 12 points. Back in the hunt. Come on.
Dec 19, 2018 17:55:18 GMT
geo: Job done as above - next step, stay unbeaten until we get to the PSG game.
Jan 3, 2019 23:17:42 GMT
theedge: Just discovered this forum. I live in Canada so don't get to many games, but I get to watch all the games live. Last 2 games attended in person: Europa League Final in Stockholm 2017, FA Cup Final 2016. Won the last 11 I've been to. I need to go more often
Apr 1, 2019 23:25:01 GMT
simes: Kazakhstan....well blow me down...been there many a time, not so bad a journey. FC Astana are not a bad outfit, gave Celtic a good run, and the National side beat Scotland. What do you reckon a walk over? BTW its easy to get to, I always use Air Astana.
Aug 30, 2019 14:11:59 GMT
snan1218: Hi,I'm very new member,the Red Devil from Malaysia.
Oct 10, 2019 9:16:40 GMT
shah: Hi i am shah been united fan from birec
Jan 24, 2020 8:33:02 GMT