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AS WE continue to face the perils of the coronavirus and its ever-changing impact on society in 2020, it’s inevitable sports will be affected too.
While some clubs have called for Boris Johnson and Conservative government to help them in their time of need, surely football should be looking after its own and allowing those in power to look after the rest of the country?
It’s not like football as an industry is poor.
Given how much money Premier League clubs generate per season, those in the top flight should be showing solidarity with the rest of the British football pyramid and ensuring that no club goes out of business while the country battles the coronavirus.
While I have sympathy with those who were promoted this season — so Aston Villa, Norwich and Sheffield United — the current television deal has buffed up their finances and given the money some have spent since their arrival in this division, they aren’t exactly searching behind the cushions for spare change.
That two of those three clubs could get relegated if and when the league resumes means they are probably being extremely prudent with their spending.
But that doesn’t mean they can’t contribute something, even if it’s to their local clubs while the richer clubs donate more.
English football has already lost one team this season due to poor finances, and the longer games are postponed then the more likely other teams will go the way of Bury.
And we’ve seen Barnet recently make 60 non-playing staff redundant.
Can’t Arsenal, who have close relationship with the Bees, chip in and pay the staff, meaning those people get to keep their jobs? I doubt Arsenal will notice the money leave their account.
Non-league clubs have estimated that they will need between £15-20 million to stay afloat. For some clubs, that’s one below-average squad player.
So if it means that West Ham or Manchester City go without one player in the upcoming transfer window, whenever that is, then so be it.
I would like to think the survival of the local grassroots clubs is more important than a player who won’t leave a footprint on the team’s history outside of making a “top-10 transfer blunders of the summer” article in a few years time.
First and foremost, club staff should be paid their full wages and players shouldn’t be subsidising staff salaries.
It was great to see basketball players come out and say that they will donate money to stadium staff in the immediate aftermath of the NBA season being cancelled.
But the people who pay their wages have more than enough to continue paying those they employ, from players to those that work in the club shop, and it’s the duty of the clubs, where possible, to continue with full payments.
And if they employ those people via an agency, keep paying the agency, even if you don’t need the staff for a few months.
And it isn’t just other clubs that football should be helping, it’s the local community as well.
We have already seen Chelsea offer their stadium-based hotel to NHS workers and former Manchester United defender and current Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville has done the same with the two hotels he currently owns.
Liverpool have offered their stewards to local supermarkets to help out as they see more and more customers, be it those who are stockpiling food to those who are doing their weekly shop as normal.
This is a brilliant start but more can be done.
If non-league side Stockport can donate £75,000 to their local NHS foundation trust, then there’s no reason why other clubs across the country can’t donate the same — at a minimum.
Yes, we have seen players doing a lot of work through their various foundations but it shouldn’t be up to them to lead the way.
Football is a billion-pound industry. So much of that is squandered to agents, failed transfers, as mentioned earlier, as well as general waste.
Now is the time to not only for these wealthy owners to put their money where their mouth is but to also use the resources they have to give back.
Can they open up their training facilities to hospitals, like we have seen with Brazilian football club Esporte Clube Bahia.
As their communications manager Nelson Barros told the Star on Monday: “This is not free time, we are not on vacation, it’s a time to take care of others.
“The club had already taken important decisions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in our community.
“Employees, collaborators, players and staff were permitted to work from home and Bahia also encouraged them to self-quarantine for the next few weeks.
“We believe it is extremely important to co-operate with the requests of the health authorities.”
He added: “The Fazendao [their old training ground] was used to prepare our players for the past 30 years.
“The complex has about 30 bedrooms, an industrial kitchen, dining area, players’ room, living room and other ready-to-use facilities.
“After an inspection made by local authorities and Bahia’s representatives, the site was approved to receive patients with Covid-19 who do not need complex treatments.”
That a club the size of Bahia can be doing so much, there’s really no excuse for the likes of United and Arsenal to not be doing something along those lines.
That’s not to say that these clubs aren’t active in their communities during the season.
Not to be cynical, but we’ve all seen the photos of players alongside sick children in hospitals, orchestrated by the hospitals and the clubs.
But those same hospitals need help and support more than ever now.
The game isn’t returning any time soon but that doesn’t mean clubs shouldn’t be working harder than they usually do.
Some lower down the leagues have already said that the youngsters are on hand to deliver food and essentials to the elderly.
Imagine if the first-team players across the country were doing that.
Obviously for health reasons they would have to keep their distance and not put themselves or others in harm’s way.
But even if it was once a week, it would be taking the strain off the NHS and other care workers and we should all be coming together to help where possible.
Yes, Boris Johnson has technically locked the country down in his own unique way of showing what he calls “leadership.”
But I can’t see him or the police stopping footballers who want to drop off a few items to pensioners.
Photos emerged on Monday of Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho spending this newly found free time to deliver care packages to self-isolating elderly people and I’m sure there are other people working in the sport who are doing the same.
And if players can’t do that, using their social reach to remind people what they should be doing while indoors would be of great use.
As would continuing what they are doing, those that are being helpful anyway.
Regardless, society will look back on the next few months and remember what sport did to help.
Hopefully football, with its vast amount of funds, can step up and do the right thing.
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