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Desperation to get Premier League back on is down to ‘corporate greed’

Even some diehard Arsenal fans think we shouldn't be rushing to get footballers back on the pitch

22 May, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Arsenal face finishing their season behind closed doors

FOOTBALL without fans is “like beer without alcohol”, according to Arsenal supporters wary of plans to re-start the Premier League behind closed doors.

While many are missing their weekly fix, some of the club’s most seasoned followers are confused how it can work amid social distancing rules.And even some businesses which have missed out on two months of match day trade are sceptical about a re-start.

“It’s outrageous,” said Una Mckernan, who co-runs The Gunners Pub in Blackstock Road. “This is pure corporate greed on behalf of the Premier League and the way it is all mixed up with the big media companies and TV deals is just wrong.”

A statement released by the Premier League this week said that shareholders had “voted unanimously to return to small-group training” as of Tuesday afternoon.

Some footballers have spoken about their safety concerns, including former Spurs defender Danny Rose. It is still not clear when the games will re-start but Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has said the 20 clubs are “united in their desire” to get the 2019/20 season back up and running.

Leaders Liverpool remain two wins short of being crowned champions.

The German Bundesliga started again on Saturday with games played without fans. Balls had to be sterilised at regular intervals and substitutes sat two metres apart wearing face masks.

Steve Kell from the Arsenal Supporters Club

Steve Kell, a committee member of the Arsenal Supporters Club, said: “Whatever happens, they will finish this season off because of the money involved. That is the only thing that is driving it. Everyone knows it.”

“The clubs are reliant on the money coming in and they will not want to give either a rebate or give a reduction on next year’s TV money because all their business models are reliant on it.”

He added: “Watching a game without fans will be awful. It’s like having beer without alcohol. “It was the fans and the atmosphere and the enthusiasm and spontaneity which is why the Premier League was such a marketable thing in the first place. Us Brits are bonkers when it comes to football. We take it to a new level.”

Mick Doherty, who runs the Islington Sports Bar and Grill in Holloway Road, added: “There is talk that they [the Premier League] will relax the ban on showing 3pm games on TV. If they relax it, it does set a precedent and it would be impossible for them to go back on that. “It would allow pubs to show 3pm games and that would help us – if we were allowed to open.”

Mick Doherty would welcome more televised matches

The Scottish Premier League season was finished early this week and the schedules in France and the Netherlands were abandoned.

“Let’s hope, and I have said this many times, when this is over they respect fans more and see the value we bring,” Robbie Lyle, who hosts and founded the Arsenal Fans TV (AFTV) channel, said on his show.

“Look how important we are, fans. The TV companies have never put any importance on us. Putting games on at any time, not caring about whether fans can make it or not. “Then the clubs, with ridiculous ticket prices and the way they treat the fans sometimes.”

Former Gunners manager Arsene Wenger said this week football would be damaged if people got used to matches in closed stadiums.

An Arsenal spokeswoman said: “Like all industries football needs to find a way to return. The health and safety of players and staff is our priority. We are following the strict protocols agreed with the Premier League and government. These currently allow a return to small group training while maintaining social distancing. This is the first step towards playing matches behind closed doors in the future. Everything will be closely monitored by medical professionals, the Premier League and government.”

Premier league chief Richard Masters said: “Of course, safety comes first. We must listen to government, the authorities and the medical experts and continue to follow their advice. “That is exactly what we are doing. We are getting ourselves in the best position to resume the season, but only when the conditions are right.”

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