Chris Goreham: Changing face of football... but what matters most?
PUBLISHED: 17:22 27 April 2020 | UPDATED: 17:22 27 April 2020
What will football be like when it is able to make a welcome return?
The past few days have underlined what a literal game-changer coronavirus could be and I can already feel my relationship with the sport evolving.
The challenges being faced by those of us in the world of radio are insignificant compared to what other key workers are up against, but I have been forced into learning several new skills. Until recently ‘Zoom’ was a word that can only have been associated with Norwich City when used to describe the impact that Darren Huckerby had after he arrived on loan in 2003. Now, it’s a vital communications tool in a socially distant world and it was how we linked the club’s executive committee with our studio to talk about the impact all of this could have on the Canaries.
The potential losses of between £18m and £35m being forecast by Ben Kensell, Zoe Ward and Stuart Webber underlined the challenges that are ahead.
There’s a Peter Crouch-sized caveat here, to name check the other big Nigel Worthington loan signing of 2003, and that is that no one can say with any certainty when football will be back, what the ultimate financial impact will be on clubs of all levels and what other factors will come into play over the next few weeks and months, but with the very future of some clubs on the line it doesn’t seem right to lose any sleep over whether Norwich City might stay up or go down.
The Canaries are not alone, of course. They have just been the first Premier League club to spell out the severity of what Covid-19 could mean. One would like to think that the health and safety of everyone involved in the staging of a football match, from players to fans and stewards, should be the biggest consideration, given that tens of thousands of lives have already been lost in the UK alone. The revelation that Premier League clubs could face repayments of up to £762m to broadcasters if the season is not finished put the apparent determination by the authorities to get 2019/20 done into an interesting context.
Norwich City have strongly defended their decision to be one of only two Premier League clubs to have furloughed some of their staff. Liverpool, Tottenham and Bournemouth have all changed their minds after pressure from supporters, having initially intended to take advantage of the scheme. It was fascinating to see the outcry over this. Not because disquiet about clubs with rich backers taking money that was almost certainly intended to support businesses without sugar daddies or massive cash reserves isn’t justified, but because fans of all clubs have a tendency to let their love of a favourite team and hunger for success come before any thoughts of morality and ethics.
Right on cue, Newcastle United appear to be on the verge of a Saudi takeover. There have been protests to the Premier League about the possibility of allowing this from a few places, including the Qatar-based broadcaster BeIN Sports. If Newcastle were finally to start winning trophies would the majority of the Geordie nation really care how it was being funded?
It would be good to think that the financial challenges ahead might see a club like Norwich City, that has been careful to live within its means, finally benefit from that policy. Call me a cynic, but it is hard not to assume that those with the most money behind them will emerge from this crisis least scathed.
As for my relationship with football, it’s not the money or the millionaires that I’m missing. It’s the sense of community that comes from sharing the highs and lows with thousands of other fans who all have their own special reasons and unique stories for devoting themselves to the yellow and green cause. As long as we’re all back together when it’s safe for everyone to return, I’ll be happy whenever that may be.
Being in the Premier League doesn’t feel like it matters quite as much as it used to.
Have you recovered from Norwich City’s shock 6-2 defeat at the hands of Sheffield United?
If the answer is yes, then you weren’t watching Todd Cantwell playing Blades striker Lys Mousset on the BBC Red Button last week in a game of FIFA.
Computer games were a huge part of my youth and I do still dabble now when time allows, but I had always had them down as one of those things that, on reaching adulthood, was perfectly fine and acceptable to enjoy in the privacy of your home but didn’t need to be shared with everyone else.
Dreams and exercise had been in the same envelope for me, but it’s now impossible to look at social media without seeing a map of how far and impressively quickly one of your friends has run, or reading a post that starts “I had a really weird dream last night…”.
With no actual football I broke the habit of a lifetime and watched live coverage of two other people playing a computer game against each other. I am now convinced that e-sports will never fill the void of actual real life for me, but if I am honest that awful feeling in the pit of the stomach that can only be stirred by watching Norwich City lose did start to awaken as Mousset plundered goal after goal at pretend Carrow Road.
It proves that I have a problem. Wrap anything in yellow and green and I suddenly become emotionally attached to it, with huge apologies to anyone who queued behind me in the supermarket last week when I stopped to stare at the bags of frozen peas and sweetcorn.
There was only one answer. I needed to get even and so fired up an old copy of Championship Manager 97/98 that usually sits dormant on my PC. I know you’re not really interested, but the season ended with a brilliant 1-0 win over Manchester City in the old Division One play-off final, Iwan Roberts scored the winner. I can’t see Man City ever recovering from that.