This time of year is usually a joyful one for sports fans. We were promised, amongst other things, a Premier League run-in, Euro 2020, the conclusion of the Six Nations, the British Open, Royal Ascot, the Olympics, and a trilogy fight between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury. Alas, such events were not to be, for the foreseeable future at least.
The position sport finds itself in is unprecedented. That said, some sports have dealt with it more wisely than others. While boxing, horse racing and golf seem to be indefinitely on hold, and rightfully so, there appears to be certain sports, most notably football and MMA, who are unwilling to accept their fate, and whose ignorance may well put their employees at risk.
For quadrennial events, such as Euro 2020 and the Olympics, postponement is not overly complicated. You simply push it back a year. For annual events however, the situation is more complex. Take for example the English Premier League. While postponement was definitely the correct thing to do, it poses complicated questions. What happens if play cannot resume before next season is due to start? Is the season null and void? Does anyone get relegated? Are Liverpool crowned champions? A myriad of problems arise. In any case, the situation is less than ideal.
The situation is so far beyond ideal in fact, that certain solutions seem to be unrivalled in their stupidity, by virtue of their desperation. One of the leading recommendations to solve the coronavirus dilemma for football is to play remaining games behind closed doors in a “special base camp” located somewhere in the Midlands. As alluded to by Wayne Rooney, such lunacy undeniably treats footballers like “guinea pigs”, placing TV contracts and private revenue above the welfare of players.
What is most frustrating about such ideas, is that they are put forward under the guise of a means of raising “global morale” during “unprecedented times.” Such a suggestion is farcical. Speaking as a passionate football fan, I can quite honestly say that watching Manchester United crawl to a 1-0 defeat against Aston Villa in an empty stadium located somewhere in Middlesbrough will do nothing to boost my spirits. In fact, the idea of having to be subjected to such torture while concurrently under quarantine, is nothing short of frightening. Furthermore, the idea that sports should continue at all costs as soon as possible shows a blatant disregard for those involved in their organisation. What if a player becomes infected in a hotel before a game and ends up giving the virus to an elderly kit man? The risks are far too great.
“While calls to finish the season clearly lack perspective, clubs such as Liverpool are left in a precarious position. Once again as a United fan, this isn’t something that I lose too much sleep over”
While calls to finish the season clearly lack perspective, clubs such as Liverpool are left in a precarious position. Once again as a United fan, this isn’t something that I lose too much sleep over but the idea that a team so far ahead at the top of the league will not be crowned champions as the result of a pandemic must be a bitter pill to swallow. It is also one that doesn’t seem to be imbued by fairness. For smaller clubs, such as those in the lower leagues, not finishing the season may be detrimental from a financial point of view. As with all businesses who are struggling at the moment, moratoriums and government aid appear to be the answer. Thus, despite such concerns, public health should undoubtedly be prioritised over finance and sporting triumph.
Thankfully, there seems to be a silent acceptance that sport should be put on pause until the end of this pandemic, even if it means declaring seasons null and void. That is, in all sports apart from MMA. Despite the sporting and indeed general world going into total lockdown, UFC President Dana White has ploughed on. Postponing only three fights, White has proudly secured a private Island to stage UFC events for the “next couple of months”. White’s stance on the coronavirus has been notably laissez-faire, proudly proclaiming that “people need to feel some sort of normalness”. He has also said “since when do Americans hide in their houses? If the coronavirus doesn’t kill you, something else will!”. It is hoped that this kind of blind arrogance does not find its way into other sports. As with football, the suggestion that White’s persistence is down to some kind of duty to bring “normalness” to the world is laughable.
Indeed, taking White and the Premier League as a case note, the coronavirus has exposed the ugliest side of sport as we know it. Due to the high levels of revenue on the line, some sporting organisations appear willing to put lives at risk in order to proceed with a “business as usual at all times” fallacy. Such an attitude is harmful, and may well result in disaster.