Chris Lakey: Football takes vital matters into its own hands

PUBLISHED: 18:21 13 March 2020 | UPDATED: 18:23 13 March 2020

Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta tested positive for the virus. Picture: John Walton/PA Images

Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta tested positive for the virus. Picture: John Walton/PA Images

PA Wire/PA Images

It was coming... it just took football to make its own decision. Head of sport Chris Lakey looks at the events of the week, and some of the repercussions.

A sign on the gate at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium, as the English Premier League is suspended Picture: PAA sign on the gate at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium, as the English Premier League is suspended Picture: PA

It was inevitable that the coronavirus effect would catch up with Norwich City at some time.

From the moment a significant figure from the Premier League tested positive for coronavirus, it was a case of when, not if.

The potential for games to be suspended or played behind closed doors grew as the government prepared to take us from contain prepare to delay; when that happened, we were in limbo, waiting for Boris Johnson to make a definitive decision on which way sport should go. That didn't happen. But Mikael Arteta and Callum Hudson-Odoi did. And from then it was a different ball game.

Arsenal boss Arteta's positive test was announced late on Thursday, Chelsea player Hudson-Odoi's a few hours later. And suddenly, the problem was well and truly on football's doorstep, not Bo-Jo's. Football, particularly the Premier League which is considered to be awash with money, can be regarded with a cynical eye, as a bloated cash cow bulldozing its way through your TV screens, challenging your morals.

Chelsea's Callum Hudson-Odoi has tested positive for coronavirus Picture: PAChelsea's Callum Hudson-Odoi has tested positive for coronavirus Picture: PA

Sometimes it's hard to escape that vision, but this week when it needed to be led from the nose, it wasn't. Until it was forced.

Suspension of the Premier League until April 4 is probably just the beginning, given the peak of the problem isn't due to hit for many weeks. We are most definitely just at the tip of this particular iceberg.

If you want to see the extent of the problem, then consider that this is where we are at now...

n The Premier League has been suspended until April 4 and the EFL until April 3 at the earliest.

n All Scottish football has been suspended with immediate effect and the Irish Football Association has suspended the current season in Northern Ireland until at least April 4.

The Football Association of Ireland announced all football activity under its jurisdiction has been suspended until March 29.

n England's two friendlies later this month at Wembley, the Women's Super League and FA Women's Championship have also been postponed by the FA. Wales' international matches with Austria and the United States at the end of March are also both called off.

n Uefa has announced all Champions League and Europa League fixtures scheduled for next week are postponed, as well as the quarter-final draws for both competitions. Uefa has called an emergency meeting next Tuesday to discuss whether Euro 2020 can go ahead as scheduled.

Norwich City - the doors will be closed for a while Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdNorwich City - the doors will be closed for a while Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

n Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta and Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi have tested positive for coronavirus.

n Everton's entire first-team squad and coaching staff are undertaking a period of self-isolation after a first-team player reported symptoms consistent with coronavirus.

n Bournemouth have announced five of their employees, including goalkeeper Artur Boruc, are self-isolating having displayed symptoms consistent with the virus.

n Three Leicester players have shown symptoms and were kept away from the rest of the Foxes' squad.

Artur Boruc - one of five Bournemouth employees self-isolating Picture: PAArtur Boruc - one of five Bournemouth employees self-isolating Picture: PA

And there is a lot more. Uefa's meeting on Tuesday is massive. Consider where we stand on the domestic front: we have an initial suspension period during which football's movers and shakers will have to work out what to do on resumption, assuming there is a resumption, but the timing of that will be effected by the Euros decision. If the Euros are postponed for a year, it may well be the case that domestic football remains off because of the coronavirus. That pushes us way into the summer. If the Euros go ahead then our resumed game cannot overlap - and the Euros begin on June 12 and last for a month. Will our season be over by June 12?

So, let's say we're locked out for a few weeks. Players cannot possibly go straight back into a new fixture programme. This is like the start of a new season, so they will need warm-up games: can they do that while under a suspension caused by what the prime minister described as the country's biggest health crisis for a decade. I guess that very few of us has the medical know-how to hold court over the effects of coronavirus. What we can do, though, is examine the effects of action taken - and they spread far and wide. From champions-elect Liverpool, to relegation favourites Norwich. From King's Lynn Town, riding the wave higher than the club has ever ridden before, to the possibility that a backlog of games will hamper their hopes of promotion.

The coronavirus pandemic is an ever-changing story; it has claimed many lives and will continue to do so. And it is disrupting the lives of hundreds of millions of people. It seems wrong to talk about its effect on a game of football, but everything has to be put into perspective.

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