KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY —- Let’s be realistic: as far as sport in general and football in particular are concerned, no-one has a clue.
This is not to denigrate the worthy value of all those video-meetings, tele-conferences and Zoom summits being valiantly undertaken by the likes of the IOC, FIFA, UEFA, the Football Association, Premier League, Uncle Tom Cobley & All.
For one thing they enable all those involved to keep their home-imprisoned minds active with a pretence of laying foundations for a resumption of competition in Never-Never-Land. Putative dates come and go and will keep on going.
Consider the facts.
In most major – and minor – countries gatherings of any size have been prohibited. Social and entertainment events have been cancelled. Local travel has been curtailed. Most international flights have been grounded and the airlines are going bust. As for the sponsors, who knows?
There is no end in sight. Not even on the distant horizon.
On Sunday Dr Jenny Harries, England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, suggested that, even on the current uncertain modelling, it could be six months before the UK returned to anything like normal.
Social distancing means no bodily contact sport and, naturally, no live crowds.
Stretch her forecast across the rest of Europe and football’s preferred resolution of completing the season will not be any time soon. Not in April. Not in May, not in June.
The longer the suspension the more time players will need to regain appropriate fitness levels. So, add in up to a further month.
With different countries easing restrictions at differing times the 2019-20 season might easily run on until December. Assuming coronavirus does not stage a comeback, that is.
In all of this FIFA president Gianni Infantino, for all his sporting omnipotence, is impotent. He can – and has – issued all the relevant messages he can about the essential priorities of public health while, on a practical level, more and more clubs have put their facilities at the service of local emergency services.
FIFA’s proposals include a season-ending extension of contracts. But that must depend on goodwill since it would probably be unenforceable in law.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has overseen the postponement of Euro 2020 until the summer of next year.
The rescheduling of the Tokyo Olympic Games to July 23/August 8 throws UEFA’s plans for the 2021 Women’s Euro into question. The Olympics is highly important for women’s football so the two competitions cannot overlap or run back-to-back.
Also, since the Women’s Euro is being staged in England it is impossible to push it back into the autumn when the Premier and Football League dream of filling their stadia again.
Ceferin told an Italian newspaper than UEFA was preparing Plans A, B and C. The assumptions on which they were based probably all had to be recalibrated the next day.
Europe is not the world though its football administrators often act as if it were. But it is – and by far – the richest corner. It drives the international football economy. The longer it remains in lockdown the more extensively the worldwide game suffers.
Yes, that does mean not only near-at-hand Euro 2020 but the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Until cross-border international football is back in full swing no-one can have a clue about the domino effect on qualifying competitions.
All too obviously the greed-is-good rush to expand Olympic Games, World Cups, European Championships and the rest has converted calendar complexity into the stuff of scheduling nightmares.
Do not believe that, in all of these uncertainties, the European finals and the Olympics will necessarily go ahead as re-planned next year.
Certainty has fled the scene.
Even if the Olympics do proceed they will not be viewed by virus victims’ families or surviving health workers as the “beacon of hope” and any other such self-serving, insulting drivel spouted by Japanese politicians and the IOC.
Then, just think of it . . . six months after Tokyo the Olympic calavcade will roll on to the next Winter Games in China where Bach & Co will doubtless glad-hand the men who kept coronavirus a murderous secret until too late for everyone else.
Sport will resume eventually. But “eventually” will be a long time emerging from this long, dark winter of coronavirus.
So let’s be realistic.