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The independent London newspaper

Take That as a conspiracy

OPINION: There’s suspicion everywhere from fans who are desperate for the Premier League season not to be cancelled

14 May, 2020 — By Richard Osley

AFTER nearly eight weeks of lockdown, it’s understandable that some of our views may become distorted, infected by fear and paranoia. I for one found myself staring at an online pub quiz last week, growling when Gary Barlow popped up as a special “treat” during the interval.

As he serenaded us captive viewers in the name of raising funds for the health service, my mind raged rabidly that this must be a performance born out of guilt, a sorry for that old tax avoidance scheme story. Barlow was to blame for everything, the intrusive thoughts insisted. And now here he was, the endless chancer, singing: This Could Be The Greatest Day Of Our Lives at us.

Of course, Barlow shouldn’t shoulder the blame for the underfunded NHS but this is what lockdown is doing to us, a small germ of an idea can balloon into a conspiracy theory.

Some people are even charting the illusions on social media. Many, for example, seem infected with the idea that a Brighton and Hove Albion player had conjured up a positive coronavirus test to make it harder for the Premier League to start up again.

These supporters who are desperate for the suspended season not to be cancelled, and I’d hate to presume they are Liverpool fans, have circulated the idea that Covid results have suddenly appeared on the south coast because Brighton were dicing with relegation.

This is what lockdown is doing to people. Suspicion is everywhere. Any player from a club near the bottom, who raises a safety concern about being made to play football in a time when a lot of people are scared to even go to the shops, is treated like a callous schemer, interested in their team’s survival before that of the human race.

In fact, the Brighton case should be taken seriously. It’s a warning sign. What will happen if players get infected just after a restart. Does this cursed season all shut down again?

There’s TV deals and lawsuits to deal with, but who has the feeling that the only reason the league has not been voided already is because Liverpool were so close to winning it?

The huge logistical effort being discussed is frankly mind-boggling, the unprecedented medical assessments, matches stripped of a crowd, extra security issues… and it’s beginning to feel if it’s all being done so Liverpool can win two games. If they had won the trophy already, surely these discussions wouldn’t be taking place and we wouldn’t be left to dream up any more conspiracy theories.

At the start of the outbreak, Jurgen Klopp was praised for his measured response, but he’d be a legend of sportmanship for all time if he now joined those voting to stop this confusing rush to get on a pitch again.

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