The Return of the Premier League: Hope With a Touch of Trepidation

Fans expecting to return to sports stadiums from 1st October to watch their favourite Premier League teams live have been left waiting. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that these plans are to be reviewed, due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases throughout the country. A 1,000 capacity has already been imposed, which would have left over half the fans who watched Chelsea and Brighton’s pre-season clash without a seat.

The Premier League organising body has urged the government not to impose any additional delays, noting that £100 million a month is lost as a result of games being played to empty stands. Premier League Chief Executive, Richard Masters stated that he’s confident stadiums will be back at full capacity by the end of this 2021-21 season, saying he’s “very optimistic that can be achieved, that’s our ambition and our objective and we’re doing everything we can”.

Once again though, this pandemic has reared its ugly head, with four Premier League players and club staff testing positive for coronavirus. Perhaps the world of football has yet to fully understand that COVID-19 is a reality, regardless of attitude or optimism.

Consider, for instance, that Masters saw the opening of stadiums as an “ambition”, which would suggest that to an extent, this is a measure of willpower and effort. However, with a global pandemic, that is not always the case. It being beyond our control is one of the toughest realities of this situation.

It is, however, worth pointing out that this is a result of 2,121 players and staff being tested, so the overall percentages of infected do remain low. Nonetheless, many are wondering if this is the thing that will tip the government's decision into locking down the rest of the season.

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Expectation versus reality

Many people believed the return to normal life following the first wave of coronavirus would be a binary thing. When post-lockdown was discussed, people often mentioned the first big night out once this nightmare was over, and few imagined their initial trips to the pub would be often anxious and socially distanced. It’s a similar situation with sporting events. We won’t be able to simply come out of lockdown and go straight into huge, packed stadiums as though nothing has happened.

We’re not going to make any kind of judgement on government policy or the scientific logic behind different approaches. Frankly, we’re not qualified. We’re just fans like you, who would love to see sport and life in general return to normal. The most bitter pill to swallow is perhaps that realisation that this will likely be with us for longer than any of us initially thought – perhaps in a less devastating form, but it will still have an impact.

The good news though is things will start to slowly get better. Football stadiums are but one example of the wider return of ordinary social gatherings. If it’s under a capacity of 1,000, for instance, that’s better than nothing and one day, hopefully soon, there will be many more than that. We’ll just have to be a little more patient than we perhaps initially realised, but we’ll get there.

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