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Games to be played behind closed doors as part of coronavirus crisis plan

• Plan to start as early as today • Live streams for ticket-holding fans

Thursday March 12 2020, 12.01am, The Times

 

All football matches in England will be played behind closed doors under government plans to combat coronavirus that could be triggered as early as today.

A meeting of the government’s Cobra committee this morning is expected to move its response to the pandemic from the “contain” phase to the “delay” phase. That will result in a crisis plan being unveiled for football. The Times can reveal:

● The current season will not be postponed and instead matches in the Premier League and lower divisions will be moved behind closed doors;

● All Premier League season-ticket holders and ticket holders for individual games will be able to stream coverage of matches into their homes;

● No games will be shown in pubs so as to avoid congregation of people;

● Premier League games will not be shown live in the 3pm slot on Saturday afternoons;

● Broadcasters will be permitted to screen more than one Premier League game during both the lunchtime and tea-time television slots on Saturday, and the scheduled slots on Sundays and Mondays; and

● Season-ticket holders and ticket holders for individual games at Football League clubs will be allowed to watch matches on iFollow streams.

 

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The plan may be implemented once the number of UK coronavirus cases passes 500. Last night it stood at 460.

The dramatic moves are seen as the only potential way to end the present season in light of the growing coronavirus crisis in England and the growing possibility of the country being moved to the delay phase.

The government has been in discussion with the Premier League, the Football League and the Football Association about what can be done. The uncertainty over how the virus will develop and how long it will last are seen as reasons why English football will not be temporarily postponed. The forthcoming Euros also present a problem to the Premier League as to when this season would actually finish and how it could impact upon future campaigns.

Sporting integrity has been cited as a major factor in moving against the possibility of cancelling the season outright, although smaller clubs who are more reliant on gate receipts are worried about the financial implications of matches without ticket sales.

However, there are huge penalty clauses in the Premier League broadcasting contracts if the season was terminated rather than played to a conclusion. These would run into hundreds of millions of pounds for the Premier League and would most likely have to be passed onto the clubs, or alternatively would be clawed back by removing things such as parachute payments.

That is what has led to the solution of moving games behind closed doors.

The Premier League has been the last major organisation in Europe to move towards ending spectator attendance at their games.

So far the government has followed medical advice that has insisted the congregation of large crowds at outdoor events is not dangerous. However, it is the close proximity of supporters travelling, especially on trains, that is now seen as the biggest threat.

Under the plans, pubs will be ordered not to show live coverage of matches and will be threatened with the loss of their licence if they fail to comply. It is thought this will be policed strongly because of the risk to health.

The present proposals are to broadcast every single Premier League game. Every season-ticket holder, or anyone who has a bought a ticket for a game would get a free stream. Clubs would then be able to sell streams for their games to fans as well. Even given the extraordinary nature of the times, there is still a desire not to set a precedent by showing games live at 3pm on a Saturday, traditionally a protected slot to incentivise fans going to watch their local teams in person.

The Premier League has been in negotiations with the Football League to assure them that none of their games would be shown live at 3pm on a Saturday. Broadcasters would face less pressure in the unique environment to put matches directly up against other games. The solution would involve existing slots with potentially three games shown at the same time.

The decision by the Premier League to move all of their games away from the 3pm Saturday slot would allow the Football League to stream all of their matches at that time using the iFollow technology.

Most Football League clubs already have that technology installed to allow them to stream their games. Some clubs have their own streams but the technology is in place for every club to stream their games live.

There is still concern, however, at Football League level, about the loss of matchday income which in some cases at that level constitutes two thirds of their annual income. Talks have taken place at government level about whether there is compensation available. The chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a £30 billion package to help the country get through the coronavirus in his budget yesterday but it is unknown if any of that will be put aside for struggling football clubs fearful of going bust.

Playing games behind closed doors is now seen as the least bad option. It means that existing fixture schedules can be completed across all of the four main leagues in England. Most English clubs have at least nine league matches to play, plus the remaining rounds of the FA Cup and Champions League.

As it stands only players, team officials, broadcasters and journalists would be allowed to attend games in England. A further complication however would be if infection was to spread between players. At that point it is thought that the Professional Footballers’ Association would say that the danger to their members would be too great and games would be cancelled.

At present the Bundesliga in Germany and Ligue One in France have already gone behind closed doors, and one Division Two footballer in Germany has tested positive for the virus.

The Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has voiced his concern about playing games without supporters in attendance. “Does football work without spectators?” he said. “If the people can’t come, there is no sense. We will follow what we have to do, but I wouldn’t like to do it without the people.

“The other issue you have to ask is: is it worse to play football without the spectators? We do our job for the people and if the people cannot come to watch us, there is no sense.

“I would not love to play matches in the Premier League or Champions League or the cups without the people, but we will follow the instructions of the government.”

Discussions have shown that all eventualities are fraught with difficulties, but it is seen as the only way ahead.

 

 

If this nightmare scenario happens there must be solidary payments from the multibillion greed league to the EFL to cover expected gate takings. Otherwise there will be a large amount of clubs, particularly at L2 level, seriously teetering on the brink. The revenue from the remaining 4/5 home games is low six figures in L2. Nothing to the premier league but vital to the likes of Macclesfield and tinpotters like Crewe.

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Stoke will still announce an attendance over 25,000

Guess the crowd should be a piece of pi** though !!!

Whereas Jezzer and Abbot would have sorted this by now 🙄

9 hours ago, Doha said:

<ovf censored>

 

 

 

If this nightmare scenario happens there must be solidary payments from the multibillion greed league to the EFL to cover expected gate takings. Otherwise there will be a large amount of clubs, particularly at L2 level, seriously teetering on the brink. The revenue from the remaining 4/5 home games is low six figures in L2. Nothing to the premier league but vital to the likes of Macclesfield and tinpotters like Crewe.

In Denmark, football clubs will be compensated by the state. To have their costs covered, but not to make a profit. So any lost income, is tough luck.

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The late Jock Stein was the first person to my knowledge who said,

’football is nothing without the fans’

Silvio Berlusconi also echoed this comment when talking about how much ticket prices had increased and the fact that the number of live games had increased dramatically. He actually stated that the ordinary fans couldn’t afford to go to games and would watch on tv, so clubs would have to pay fans to come to the stadia. So has he gone a bit too far with his comment or was he too far ahead of the game. There are so many games on tv and ordinary fans go watch on Ifollow. I don’t know anything about Ifollow, ie cost or accessibility.

I see that the game in Paris last night PSG against Dortmund (I bet those two teams never thought they be mentioned on OVF), even though I bet we’re regularly mentioned on their fans forums, was played behind closed doors. However lots of fans gathered outside so it seems to have defeated the no fans at games. 

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Listened to a Brit living in N Italy this morning, he reckons we are probably 12-13 days behind Italy. He was very surprised that little action is being taken in the U.K., especially allowing supporters into Anfield last night, given the fact that a large number of people in Madrid have contracted the virus.

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Unfortunately, I can see if happening. After all the governments really can't take any chances. 

From what I've read this is a "delay" tactic to stop a huge, quick rise. As the spread will be slowed down, it seems that they expect it to peak in May so it could well go into the summer. 

Sadly, this isn't looking like going away and it looks like considerable disruption (not just in football but lots of things) for the foreseeable future.

 

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13 minutes ago, robf said:

Unfortunately, I can see if happening. After all the governments really can't take any chances. 

From what I've read this is a "delay" tactic to stop a huge, quick rise. As the spread will be slowed down, it seems that they expect it to peak in May so it could well go into the summer. 

Sadly, this isn't looking like going away and it looks like considerable disruption (not just in football but lots of things) for the foreseeable future.

 

 

The idea i think it to time it so it peaks in the summer when health services are less busy as able to cope but looks a bleak few months ahead.

 

 

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13 minutes ago, Fosse69 said:

Assuming PBCD goes ahead,  what is the  minimum number of players available for a  game before it can be called off? Would youth players count?

Polar Bears Can Dance

Well the NBA has suspended their season until further notice after one player tested positive.

A Juventus player and a second division German player have tested positive. Doesn't particularly mean much as Italian football is already suspended, though perhaps it will affect their Champions League fixtures.

If one player gets it then that potentially means the whole squad need isolating. Obviously their fixtures would be halted.

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If one player gets it the PFA will lose the plot and demand the season is postponed. That’d be a disaster. Euro 2020 would have be to moved to next year. We’d potentially be playing Plymouth in like June with a minimal preseason break before next season unless they push that back too and organise it so it’s staggered back slowly for the next few years slowly getting back to August-May. Nightmare. 
 

Stevenage may well stay up because this finally drowns Macclesfield financially. Morecambe must be running on a shoestring. Other clubs are on a knifeedge of debt. Southend are meant to be knackered aren’t they? Loss or even delay of revenue will kill clubs. Fixed costs still have to go out even if the matches aren’t being played. 

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15 minutes ago, Doha said:

If one player gets it the PFA will lose the plot and demand the season is postponed. That’d be a disaster. Euro 2020 would have be to moved to next year. We’d potentially be playing Plymouth in like June with a minimal preseason break before next season unless they push that back too and organise it so it’s staggered back slowly for the next few years slowly getting back to August-May. Nightmare. 
 

Stevenage may well stay up because this finally drowns Macclesfield financially. Morecambe must be running on a shoestring. Other clubs are on a knifeedge of debt. Southend are meant to be knackered aren’t they? Loss or even delay of revenue will kill clubs. Fixed costs still have to go out even if the matches aren’t being played. 

I fear you're correct. Fortunately the PFA can step in and pay players wages at Macclesfield and any other clubs that go under. Oh btw, Gordon Taylor was supposed to step down a couple years ago but appears to still be calling the shots there.

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3 hours ago, robf said:

Unfortunately, I can see if happening. After all the governments really can't take any chances. 

From what I've read this is a "delay" tactic to stop a huge, quick rise. As the spread will be slowed down, it seems that they expect it to peak in May so it could well go into the summer. 

Sadly, this isn't looking like going away and it looks like considerable disruption (not just in football but lots of things) for the foreseeable future.

 

They're saying they expect the uk peak in a fortnight's time

Fingers crossed we can get crowds back for the later season games

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