I have a cunning plan…

Premier League reportedly plan to finish the season behind-closed-doors

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Coventry's Ricoh Arena - Might Arsenal play matches here?

So finally, the Ricoh Arena sees some top flight football. Remember when Coventry City played in the top flight? They had a long run from 1967 until 2001, when they were relegated. They moved from Highfield Road to the Ricoh Arena in 2005, but never returned to the Premier League. And disputes with the owners of the Ricoh mean the club now groundshare with Birmingham City rather than play in a stadium on the outskirts of Coventry. Wasps rugby club are the current owners, but if sport is being played behind closed doors, given the nature of the sport, I don’t see too many rugby matches taking place, regardless of a crowd being allowed.

However, the plan of the Premier League to fall in line with UEFA’s decree (after delaying Euro2020 for 12 months) that all outstanding fixtures of the current domestic competitions be completed by June 30th or else 2019/20 becomes null and void, will likely see matches played in neutral venues in empty stadiums (often two on the same pitch on the same day) congregated around the Midlands, and given the Ricoh does not host any club, it's an obvious choice for matches. It’s also relatively easy to police in terms of preventing mass gatherings of fans outside the ground (as happened when PSG beat Borussia Dortmund behind closed doors at the Parc des Princes).

The priority for the Premier League is fulfilling their contractual obligations to TV companies who have paid to screen matches, although whether or not this will see season ticket holders refunded, we cannot yet say. There aren’t too many Midlands clubs in the top flight, and to avoid advantage, you can see the likes of Leicester, Villa and Wolves not playing matches on their own turf, although there is a good chance they will be used by others.

I’m not certain whether or not this is such a viable option for clubs in lower divisions. Even at Championship level – although right now, you’d do well to find any football odds - the moneyreceived from ticket sales is a much higher percentage of a club’s revenue compared to the Premier League. So behind closed doors is going to be a far less attractive proposition for them. The Government can talk about soft loans to help businesses, but loans have to be repaid eventually and I suspect the majority of clubs in the professional football pyramid are living hand to mouth and will never be able to make up the funds lost if the remainder of the season does not take place in front of paying crowds.

The Premier League aren’t going to worry too much about smaller clubs going out of business, and we’ve already seen a precedent at the start of the current campaign with Bury going under, and Bolton Wanderers (in the Premier League as recently as 2012) almost suffering the same fate. Football has become the survival of the fittest and it’s difficult to see many clubs surviving in their current form if the sport does not return to normality for them by the middle of April.

We wait official confirmation of the Premier League plan, with the distinct possibility that Champions League and Europa League matches will be played at weekends. The thing to remember is that accommodating fans travelling to matches is not a factor and that the only real issue is the timing of the games to ensure as big a television audience as possible. So we will probably have a diet of Monday to Friday domestic football with UEFA matches taking place at weekends. Mind you, chances are the European commitments will only concern Manchester City, Manchester United and Wolves after the current round of 16 matches have been completed. It’s certainly no longer an issue for Arsenal.

Personally, I thought the TV factor would mean that the big leagues around Europe – and indeed UEFA’s two main competitions – would see the campaign completed by hook or by crook. Some believed the season would be scrapped, but there’s too much money to be lost by doing that.

Appalling as the spectacle of behind closed doors football is, one thing that has interested me is that you can hear the players communicating and the coaches’ instructions from the bench. A bit like a poorly attended reserve game used to be. Of course, the Premier League might try and be creative with CGI to produce a crowd for TV viewers and recorded atmosphere. I hope not. It will be more interesting to hear what’s actually going on, and indeed, which language our players use to communicate.

One thing’s for sure – this is a season that no-one will ever forget, however it turns out…

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14
comments

  1. arrgee

    Mar 23, 2020, 17:09 #116676

    They should do what was done in the rugby World Cup. 0-0 for all remaining games. Doubtless there will be clubs who would not have gone up/down, but these are extraordinary times. When the season can be resumed, play FA and UEFA competitions as pre-season tournaments in neutral venue, like a World Cup. The idea of around 400 players + associated staff in a neutral ground is a non-starter right now.

  2. Radfordkennedy

    Mar 22, 2020, 19:16 #116675

    Markymark....hope to God you and your good lady keep well.I, like Arsenal, have an ever slowing 30 year old defender, a project I bought from the MOD a few years ago, so now is a great time to finally get it road worthy again, the fact its a rag top might make it difficult to restore to its original condition as we stand today but it will at least give me something to do. Whilst pottering about today I played 501 goals in the background my God I'd forgotten just how good the holy trinity of Rix Brady and Stapleton were and add Sundy and wasn't it good mate, real football .

  3. markymark

    Mar 22, 2020, 16:26 #116674

    Dear All , Question answered as of 1hr ago got a flurry of phone calls my boss definitely got it and I was ringing him to say I’d started getting heavy legged , headaches and a bit sick ( mild stuff really ) so now me the wife and little un will all be self isolating. Hope all on this site are well . Thank goodness I’ve got a half bottle of scotch and some beer in doors. Anyone trapped inside with kids I’ve been told one or two sites that are educational so can pass on details Blinking Corvid eh! Have to say if I lived in a remote spot and had tons of people turn up I’d be furious. Radford Kennedy - Stay well and maybe both you and the missus do mindfulness or something . God it’s going to be stressful ! Let’s all keep posting it will help keep us sane

  4. Moscowgooner

    Mar 22, 2020, 10:41 #116673

    There should be a radical recalibration of salaries across the football world. And, if any good is to come out of this pandemic, hopefully it will encourage well-heeled foreign owners to call time on their investments in English football clubs. It would be reasonable for Arsenal to ‘adopt’ smaller London and region clubs, eg Barnet, Leyton Orient, Dagenham, Boreham Wood, Wealdstone, Bromley etc. etc. and give them each a slice of TV revenues to underpin their survival. And finally readjust the economics of supporting the club by remodelling the Emirates: take the down time now to rip out seats and exec boxes, club level etc and put in terracing......

  5. CORNISH GOONER

    Mar 22, 2020, 10:30 #116672

    Update from SE Cornwall - no bloody chickens left at all. Having emptied the supermarkets the ravenous hordes are now rampaging across farm shops & village stores - I give up! My lovely wife has a theory that this is the Planet's revenge on Man for what we have done to it - our equivalent of that myxomatosis which devastated the bane of my gardening life, those bunny boys. On a more positive note, if that "resetting" that Marky mentions does come about she says she might even start watching AFC football with me - result!

  6. Radfordkennedy

    Mar 22, 2020, 10:05 #116671

    CG....it's a shame you're so far away I'd swap you a Free Range chicken for two bottles of ' proper job' and a tin of bully beef! .....Marky....feel sympathy for you mate, your being put in an awkward position that is playing with your health and safety, the lockdown will come though I feel. I've been told I'm on a ' vulnerable' list and therefore must stand down for 12 weeks, 'er indoors is less than enthusiastic at this as you can imagine. Stay safe fellas.

  7. markymark

    Mar 22, 2020, 06:21 #116670

    Lorenzo Sanz The ex president of Real who created the Galitico’s has died of Corvid-19. It’s going to a big change I think next season , will the money dissipate as marketing budgets crash , we could be facing the worst recession in a 100 years so season ticket sales collapse. Do clubs need to pay 18 year olds 80k per week in that climate? It could be the resetting that a number of supporters have wanted for some time

  8. markymark

    Mar 22, 2020, 06:13 #116669

    Deighty - err there was once football?!?

  9. Deighty

    Mar 21, 2020, 21:34 #116668

    There was once a football fanzine here !!!!

  10. CORNISH GOONER

    Mar 21, 2020, 20:11 #116667

    Interesting stuff, Marky. My latest worry, which may be total bollocks, is that if most of us are now living "online" - unless there is a corresponding reduction in consumption from manufacturing, won't the power surge required mean potential disruption to electricity supplies? I am just worried for those solid citizens who have just bought an extra freezer for their latest supermarket rampage.

  11. markymark

    Mar 21, 2020, 16:47 #116666

    I’m going to have a moan - I have to commute to Piccadilly each working day . I have been classed as a key worker (banking staff ) and do not yet have any symptoms. Because of Boris being so against closedown I therefore have to make this journey thinking it’s highly likely I’m a sitting duck. The scale of increase in London is extremely worrying with Westminster and nearby Southwark worst effected. Westminster have helpfully put up a temporary morgue by the Mozart estate ( poorest area of the borough hmmm ) Meanwhile you can’t even go to the loo if you are caught short as virtually everything is shut. Where we work we are now mainly dealing with the sad and alone plus people who have started to crack. So lots of shouting , some crying and rambling conversations. Trapped in a miserable collapsing environment until he finally gets his finger out and orders lock down . I mean it’s not like the nightmare occurring in New York is not a precise model of what will happen in London. Lock London Down!

  12. markymark

    Mar 21, 2020, 16:33 #116665

    CG - my wife’s family are geographically opposite to you being close to the Aldeburgh / Southwold / Walberswick trio . Favourite of DFL’s ( Down From London ) they are buying up asparagus and Samphire like it’s going out of fashion. Driving Range Rovers and being very wealthy they are protected from the Corona Virus! . Well let’s hope so anyway because if there is an outbreak they are a long way from any hospital and there are few beds available. You do have to scratch your head sometimes

  13. CORNISH GOONER

    Mar 20, 2020, 19:05 #116664

    Well spoken Nut Flush! However with all of us self isolators experiencing Footie withdrawal symptoms ( there are only so many Youtube compilations of 2002 & 2004 a chap can take) I think it is important to keep this group of AFC addicts in rude health. For example, I want to know if Kevin has managed to save The Gooner in these difficult times. Also I would like to hear how other Gooner communities are coping. My five pennyworth today, after venturing into my local town, is that you cannot buy a bloody free range chicken anywhere in S E Cornwall & that our electrical goods retailer has sold out of freezers. People eh!! The second homers plus the AirBnB mob are also threatening to descend upon us "en masse" thus bringing their virulent metropolitan form of the virus with them no doubt - do one, just bugger off. On a more positive note, as a couple of oldies, my wife & I have had offers from both our farmer neighbours to do our shopping for us. Both are part of Plymouth Argyle's "Green Army" - good club, great supporters.

  14. nut flush gooner

    Mar 20, 2020, 12:49 #116663

    This article makes no sense to me. In the real world we are being told to socially distance from each other, and even without crowds an awful lot of people will come into close proximity of each other. Given Asymptomatic coronavirus carriers wont even know they have the disease, this will ultimately end up exposing older and vulnerable groups in society. We have already seen how this disease exponentially evolves. In June there will be quite a few thousand people dead and no guarantee we are over the worst. The Premier League only care about money, but we already know that. The season has to be voided and we shouldn't start again until its clear that players and fans can safely watch football.