Connor Southwell: What happens when a source of great escapism grinds to a halt?

PUBLISHED: 13:00 14 March 2020

Norwich City supporters won't be able to watch their team for at least four weeks. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City supporters won't be able to watch their team for at least four weeks. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Paul Chesterton

In times as extreme as this, football, rightly, pales into insignificance.

Despite the words uttered by legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankley, football is not a game of life and death. Gambling with people's health over whether a team gains three points simply isn't sensible.

Whilst the game is often the escapism to the fears over current affairs, politics or times when crises are unfolding - there is no precedent for what we're witnessing around the globe at present.

In times of uncertainty or just general misery, the guarantee of travelling to Carrow Road is enough to forget your troubles for 90 minutes.

Football, after all, stems from community. To some extent, the result is irrelevant. It's about the experience. The time spent with loved ones or friends is priceless.

Daniel Farke is in a difficult position. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdDaniel Farke is in a difficult position. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Whilst the government state there's no major risk from keeping stadiums open, the journey could be harmful if the likelihood of catching the virus from a friend or loved one is great.

Football is a wonderful sport. One constructed on roars of emotion and the power of the connection between team and supporter is a reason that love affair still burns brightly.

This period of disruption and dislocation is required as society takes stock and, hopefully, control of the outbreak.

Unprecedented in peacetime, football has been faced with a period of turbulence that nobody anticipated. After all, football is continuous. No matter what the political landscape or discourse, the release felt at 3pm is total bliss.

City's loss at Bramall Lane will be their last game for a period. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdCity's loss at Bramall Lane will be their last game for a period. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Merely 18 hours prior to the announcement issued by the Premier League, the prime minister stood and delivered the news that sporting events wouldn't be halted for the foreseeable future. The following morning, the Premier League and EFL provided its verdict on the current fixtures.

The announcements suggests football will continue in April, but with the governments estimations that the peak of this pandemic is 10-14 weeks away, then any suggestions the sport will be ready for a return seems unrealistic.

By the beginning of July, everyone will be hoping to see a downward trajectory of cases being announced - the problem for football is that is one month before the beginning of the next season.

Everything points towards a moment of destabilisation. The European Championships look set to be moved to next summer to facilitate the time needed to complete the domestic season.

Coronavirus has restricted sport from taking place globally. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdCoronavirus has restricted sport from taking place globally. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

These are

Uncharted waters for the governing bodies. The disappointment for supporters is that is took Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta to contract the virus before a decisive step was taken.

Supporters are the reason football is the global commodity it is currently. Those elderly supporters are seemingly the ones who hold the most risk.

Football can wait.

Will the season still be completed? 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdWill the season still be completed? Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City's prospects are placed on the backburner, whether Liverpool can claim the title feels irrelevant. Health is bigger than football - than everything.

For some, football is a deep held love. For others, it's a livelihood. The fears are for those who work tirelessly for lower or non-league outfits.

Income and cash flow problems look inevitable and now is the time the Premier League used its omnipotence to influence and support those struggling in the troubling period we find ourselves in.

Football will return. That is a fact.

What happens now for football? Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus ImagesWhat happens now for football? Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

But in what state? Will the league end? Will City escape relegation?

These are all pertinent questions for another day, but ones that will need answers. Extension of the football season raises questions about player contracts, loan deals and registration.

Should the season be ended and the tables accepted in their current form, those relegated would pose serious legal challenges given they will all believe they could have escaped.

Likewise, voiding the season would see similar complaints from Leeds United or West Bromwich Albion - it seems inconceivable that this far into a competition, it could be scrapped.

Suggestions of a 22-team Premier League for 2020-21 will be under consideration, but that would mean a major reshuffle for the English pyramid. Again, unlikely.

So, how does football respond? How does this season get completed? All questions the governing bodies will need to consider.

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