Ticking the Boxes

The Premier League will take its tentative steps towards reopening this month. It’ll be football, Jim, but not as we know and love it and it makes it difficult to gin up much enthusiasm

Lyndon Lloyd 10/06/2020 41comments  |  Jump to last

Barring a significant outbreak of the coronavirus among the players, the Premier League will resume in a week’s time following a three-month suspension enforced by the pandemic. The numbers of people still dying from COVID-19 in the United Kingdom may be well off their highs but the league will, if current trends continue, probably kick off again against the backdrop of a persistently uncomfortable tally.

As Paul The Esk has so comprehensively laid out on these pages in recent weeks, the financial realities are such that, despite the impulse towards simply drawing a line under 2019-20 and declaring it void, the top-flight clubs have little choice but to try and finish the season as expeditiously as possible.

That means playing out the remaining 92 matches behind closed doors on an accelerated schedule, with the lifeblood of the game forced to watch from home. As the experience of the Bundesliga over the past month has demonstrated, it’ll be football, Jim, but not as we know and love it and it makes it difficult to gin up much enthusiasm for it.

I’ll be honest, that’s partly because I didn’t miss Premier League football or Everton nearly as much as I thought I would. Perhaps because of the emotional exhaustion from living through another failed managerial tenure, the cathartic relief provided by the Duncan Ferguson interlude, and the overall frustration with a squad still struggling with the recruitment mistakes of the past few years, it was almost a blessing to be able to forget about the Blues for a few weeks.

That run of difficult games that was interrupted by the virus offered an opportunity for Everton under Carlo Ancelotti to really take strides forward towards European football but the 4-0 defeat at Chelsea, the manner of it and the manager’s tactical mis-steps in that game really left this Evertonian in a state of ennui. You would obviously prefer the wider circumstances to be better but a hiatus wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

The longing for football’s return has been stirring recently, though — not because of its imminent return in what will be a less-than-exciting guise but simply because absence makes the heart grow fonder and, like your typical close season, three months is usually enough before you start itching for it all to start up again.

Again, though, it won’t be the magical spectacle and experience we cherish. It will be somewhat eerie and sterile; a going-through-the-motions exercise that distills the sport down to its essence of eleven men against eleven but without the passion, urging and atmosphere from the stands. Play the games, tick the boxes and move on to next season.

Of course, 2020-21 could very likely roll off the end of 2019-20 in the same crowd-less fashion or, perhaps, with a limited number of fans permitted in the beginning, which is why it made sense to just wait until the current campaign could be completed. The medium- to long-term outlook vis-a-vis the coronavirus remains uncertain and at some point, with so much money on the line and the broadcasters seemingly the only entities not open to compromise at a time when people and companies all over the place are having to make concessions and sacrifices, the “show” had to go on.

The Premier League is having to lie in the bed it has made for itself. Beholden to TV rights revenue and the ever-inflating transfer fees and salaries that have come along with it, there was only so long it could remain inactive. Whether any lasting change comes out of it remains to be seen. Chelsea’s recent expenditure would seem to indicate that the pandemic could merely be a bump in the road for the biggest clubs but the macro implications of the shutdown, particularly for smaller clubs across Europe who could yet succumb to the fiscal realities, might take some time to be felt.

In the interim, there has been speculation that Everton’s transfer modus operandi could change when the window eventually opens to reflect the new environment, with an emphasis on loan and swap deals while clubs wait to see how things look once the dust has settled. That might explain why the much-vaunted move for Gabriel that appeared to be nailed on at one point has yet to be formalised.

There is actually an opportunity here for a reset and retooling of the transfer market to consign the excesses of the recent past to history but, given the financial might of the biggest clubs and intertwined nature of European football as a whole, we shouldn’t hold our breath. Football will take its tentative steps towards reopening this month, there will likely be a period of hesitancy and frugality in the market that lasts as long as the spread of the virus remains an issue but eventually things will get back to a semblance of normal. Hopefully, Everton will be in a position to benefit, having used the time to plan for the future on and off the pitch.

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Reader Comments (41)

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Dick Fearon
1 Posted 10/06/2020 at 23:42:32
Yet again, Lyndon, you captured my jumbled thoughts about the restart and laid them out in a coherent fashion.

I believe that, before the virus arrived, there was a growing feeling among football fans that transfer fees and players' wages plus match-day entry fees were out of control.

From what we hear from experts, the entire world is entering a long period of recession. All professional sports will be scrambling for a share of a disappearing pot of gold.

Warnings about teams in lower divisions being decimated cannot be ignored. perhaps it is time for football to take another look at the Bosman ruling.

Derek Thomas
2 Posted 11/06/2020 at 01:48:36
We have a transfer policy? An actual modus operandi? in Latin, no less – Wow, I would never have guessed it.

Nobody seems to take any notice of the other bit of Latin that gets the odd mention, so why should they take any notice of that bit of Latin?

Our transfer plan seems to be as effective as the Blackadder IV type of plan... everybody run towards the German machine guns until were all dead or they run out of bullets.

Mike Gaynes
3 Posted 11/06/2020 at 03:37:27
First I've heard of us being linked with this Operandi fellow. Midfielder? Anybody seen him play?
Mike Gaynes
4 Posted 11/06/2020 at 03:39:08
Seriously, though, Lyndon, good article.
Jack Convery
5 Posted 11/06/2020 at 04:48:17
I've been more enthused by the prospect of having a tooth removed than this farcical restart – under different rules too. Abba got it right: "Money Money Money, it's a rich man's world". If a black player, god forbid, gets Covid-19 and becomes seriously ill, the shit will really hit the fan and how.
Bob Parrington
6 Posted 11/06/2020 at 05:46:05
Well put together, Lyndon. My thoughts are in line with Dick Fearon. Whereas I'm not so sure about the long period of recession worldwide, there clearly has to be a correction of some kind.

The world's money is held increasingly by fewer and fewer people. The major players in the western world have allocated obscene amounts of money to 'keep people working, ie, in jobs'.

Money used to be backed by resources such as gold but the various governments have, in reality, devalued their currencies with insufficient gold to back things up. So, IMO, there won't be a long worldwide recession – recession, yes, but long? No!

Taking this back to the Premier Leaague, we (the proletariat – and I include in that people (worldwide) earning up to, say, £100,000 pa) will still hanker to watch games on TV. So, there will still be money money money in that part of the business.

TV companies will pursue Premier League and the like no differently than before. As this is probably the largest of the largesse, I don't see a massive change, unfortunately. Human nature, eh!

Sorry, guys, if I got a bit too serious – I think it's beer o'clock!!

Tony Hill
7 Posted 11/06/2020 at 06:53:27
Football, like so much else, is in crisis and my suspicion is that the crisis is much deeper than we currently recognise.
Paul Ferry
8 Posted 11/06/2020 at 07:06:18
Wow... '£100,000 pa worldwide' = the proletariat??? What world do you live in, Bob, mate (6)?

There will be 'middle-class' accountants and renters pulling their hair out, having tried so hard so long to escape the prole bucket.

So, sub-prole is erm £60,000; £40,000 are earthworms; £30,000 are boys from the blackstuff; £20,000 are Macclesfield players; £19,000 are NHS nurses; £12,000 are lucky Amazon warehouse 'associates'.

And anyone on benefits is...

Sorry, had to rant and rave.

Kevin Prytherch
9 Posted 11/06/2020 at 08:24:39
I believe the government desire for the resumption of the Premier League lies firmly with income. A report today estimated that professional footballers in England paid £2.3billion in taxes last year. The government is going to do all it can to protect that revenue stream.

On another note, for all those statisticians, do you know which player has made the most tackles per game this season? – James McCarthy. How we'd have liked him in the centre of midfield this season when we've rolled over and died. I'd say we already had Gueye replacement, but Gueye was sort of McCarthy's replacement anyway.

Tony Abrahams
10 Posted 11/06/2020 at 08:36:54
Sold for £2.75 million, I read, Kevin, probably less than what Schneiderlin pays in tax every year.
Dave Abrahams
12 Posted 11/06/2020 at 09:59:51
I never thought I'd miss football as little as I do now. My only interest is in Everton's position. We are in the same boat as Liverpool, for vastly different reasons: they need to win two games to clinch the title, we need to win two games to stay in the Premier League.

With the squad we have at the moment, I hope we get those points, with the crowd behind us, we would have had no problems... without our backing, it is going to be a close call.

When everything is settled and next season comes around, I hope my usual enthusiasm for Everton and football in general returns. At the moment, I couldn't care less about football but I'll always care about the Blues.

Joe McMahon
13 Posted 11/06/2020 at 10:11:40
Dave, I'm with you really. My only interest is Everton and lower league teams surviving.

On a separate issue but linked to this thread, does anyone else have concerns that the Bramley-Moore Dock stadium is never going to happen? The picture leading this thread of the wooden seats in 2020 is enough to make me cry.

Ray Roche
14 Posted 11/06/2020 at 10:17:50
Dave, I've been the same. Football is way down the list of things I've really missed, well behind girlfriend, family, golf and my pals. I'm disgusted with the emphasis on money and “finish the season at all cost”... a cost that might involve people's lives.

I don't even feel like watching the remaining games on TV and if I can go and play golf then I will. I'll still love Everton but football in general and the Premier League has lost its attraction.

Thomas Lennon
16 Posted 11/06/2020 at 10:18:12
There might be a small pause while clubs will wonder what is the new going transfer rate given increased levels of debt and a small question mark over some future revenues.

Next season will be a little unusual, but likely increases in numbers watching on TV until, eg, the active case numbers fall below one in 40,000 (ie, 1,500 cases nationwide, approx 100 new cases per day) which is likely if all is well for the next 2 months (the current number is around 1,400 new cases daily, Italy is already at 200 new cases a day).

After all that is normalised, business as usual. Sitting next to people in the open air is a low-risk activity.

In the public sector, it could well be a whole other story as Tories do what Tories do.

Brian Harrison
17 Posted 11/06/2020 at 10:41:15

I think you sum up the feelings of a lot of us regarding how we feel about football at the moment. Like you, I have been going to Goodison for over 65 years, and I would never ever believe I could be so uninterested in football as I am at present.

I think what this pandemic has highlighted is that clubs at all levels have been living way beyond their means. Deloitte have just done a breakdown of clubs outside the Premier League who are spending 107% of their income. Ring any bells? This was similar to why the financial crisis happened in 2009, people getting 110% mortgages.

I think that clubs in Leagues One and Two can't be sustained as fully professional clubs. I would think that these leagues need to go to semi-professional status.

The Championship could possibly sustain a fully professional league but only with a very strict salary cap. This would have to be stringently policed and maybe a 35-point reduction if a club broke the rules. That would deter any club in trying to break the rules.

Then to the Premier League... well, there is no doubt that the revenue for all clubs will drop dramatically; I see Man Utd are reporting that they have lost £28 million since the pandemic started and they believe the losses will be a lot bigger than the £28 million they have lost at present. So, if the richest club in Britain is struggling, you can only imagine the impact it's having on less-affluent Premier League clubs.

The problem that all the leagues have is they have players on huge contracts with many years left, and they won't be in any hurry to take pay cuts.

Dave Abrahams
18 Posted 11/06/2020 at 10:41:15
Ray (15), yes family and friends come before football, and it will be great to start sitting in the same room as them without any fear of the consequences.

As you say, Ray, everyone knows why football is coming back. There is no integrity involved, as Lyndon says, clubs have got into bed with the TV monopoly and are beholden to their paymasters. Hopefully no further lives are lost because of football's return.

Christine Foster
19 Posted 11/06/2020 at 11:03:44
I tend to think that the economic downturn is going to have a much worse effect on the transfer market from top to bottom. At the top end, what the big players will want to pay will be cut drastically because of the pressure of the bottom line; mid-table teams will be offloading costs (playing staff) and looking for alternative (cheaper) solutions which is going to mean more opportunities for youth and a longer timeframe for end of playing days, meaning more short-term contracts, eg, Baines.

The paying customers of BT and Sky and overseas deals will be cutting their own cloth and subscription to Sky ilk. Lower down the leagues will be scary and I think a wing and a prayer will be the emphasis... Overall, a shrinking pot all round.

How long? I think it may be a few seasons before some normality returns, but the damage is already done, the clear up hasn't started yet.

Brent Stephens
20 Posted 11/06/2020 at 11:19:38
Mike #3 - opera and I don't go together.
Steve Brown
21 Posted 11/06/2020 at 11:20:10
Bob @ 6, linking currencies to the gold standard was one of the primary causes of the 1929 Great Depression. Not sure it's a bad thing that we have stopped doing this?
Steve Brown
22 Posted 11/06/2020 at 11:31:59
Back to football, my weekends have felt so much better without Everton bumming them out with crap performances! Watched a couple of the Bundesliga games without fans, but switched off at half time to watch some paint dry.

Can't even summon excitement over who we might buy – or more likely loan. Maybe when people stop dying in their thousands we will all be able to take football semi-seriously again.

Tony Everan
23 Posted 11/06/2020 at 12:00:43
Any club that pays massive transfer fees, extortionate agent fees and mind numbing £30 million 4-5 year wage contracts after this wake up call is playing with fire.

Nothing is certain any more, including guaranteed future revenues. Transfer fees and wages have to come into line with that reality. Any club that is paying more than it can afford in light of these uncertainties should be in no doubt that they are gambling and putting their business at terrible risk.

Taxpayers will not be bailing out insolvent premier league clubs paying £30 000- £100 000+ per week to players.

Ray Robinson
24 Posted 11/06/2020 at 12:14:58
Totally agree with you, Tony, and most clubs will take stock of the situation, adjust their budgets and act differently in the transfer market. However, my fear is that the current inequalities will only magnify if clubs like Chelsea, Man City, and Man Utd go on spending like they used to - witness the players that Chelsea seem to be buying.

Unless the league as a whole re-sets its position, we'll end up with about four teams vying for Europe every year and the remaining 16 fighting relegation.

John McFarlane Snr
25 Posted 11/06/2020 at 13:46:08
Hi Dave [12], Ray [14], and Brian [17],

I too place football way down on the list of my priorities. I have children and grandchildren who have to stand outside of our house when they visit, the youngest being 6 years old, and I don't think he really understands why we don't give him his customary hug.

Like Dave, I've been attending matches since 1948 and my life revolved around football in general and Everton in particular, but if I never see another game it won't bother me. My passion waned some years ago and it seems I attended games because I was programmed. I have, however, renewed my season ticket, mainly because of my grandson Josh's inherent love of football and Everton.

I have read on another thread that there is talk of initially allowing 10% of ground capacity to attend games. If that's the case, and I can't see how they can make that work with somewhere in the region of 35.000 season ticket holders, then it's almost certain that I will have witnessed my last game, because I have no intention of watching televised games in empty stadiums.

Bob Parrington
26 Posted 11/06/2020 at 13:47:44
Steve @21. I think that's the point even if I didn't express myself clearly. My thoughts are that the governments will just print money. The gold standard becomes obsolete. Just look at Bitcoin type stuff.
Mark Louch
27 Posted 11/06/2020 at 13:55:45
Excellent article as ever. Money has been the ruination of football for some time and this crisis will see the end of many professional teams.

Those in the Premier League will be stretched (eg, Tottenham borrowing £190M) but will probably survive if they can get crowds in within the year. Some will prosper by picking off assets from those further down the foodchain.

My local club is Aldershot in the National League and, at this level, football is in real jeopardy. 70% of income is at the turnstiles and without it clubs like this cannot survive on the back of any broadcasting deals.
Players at this level (professional) can be earning as little as £200 per week and are on 9-10 month contracts. Most are currently unemployed.

For this reason, as well as the good of the game from top to bottom, I would welcome a complete "reboot" as a result of the COVID crisis.
Sadly, like some of the other things that should reboot (Valuing Social Care/NHS, real jobs, environment etc) I do not hold my breath.

Sorry to be serious; I am looking forward to seeing some football but will not be able to get really excited until it becomes real in front of crowds who feel pretty safe attending.

Jerome Shields
28 Posted 11/06/2020 at 15:16:31
What Everton are about to take part in is a whole new ball game. It's a competition without a relevant cup. The Premier League title has already been decided and this is being run for the Media Companies.

Everton need to be fit and highly motivated to get through the coming weeks.

Dennis Stevens
29 Posted 11/06/2020 at 17:12:47
If those luvable reds blow the League, I shall be a complete hypocrite & commend the decision to complete the League programme. Well, you've got to hope for some kind of silver lining!
John Raftery
30 Posted 11/06/2020 at 17:52:24
Like many others, I have not missed Everton and the Premier League soap opera. Unlike many others, I always felt the season should, and would, be resumed at some stage. Now that that is happening, as somebody who normally attends every match, home and away, I am gutted I won't be able to attend any games, probably for many months ahead. I will tune in to watch the TV output replete with the abominable VAR, inane commentaries and comments, hoping our team has enough about it to win a few matches.

On that last point, we have little margin for complacency. With the injury toll mounting by the day and a lack of squad depth, we look ill-equipped to coast serenely through the remaining weeks. The sooner we can notch a couple of wins, the sooner we can relax.

James Lauwervine
31 Posted 12/06/2020 at 13:08:00
Like others have already said, I too haven't missed football in the slightest. In fact, I would be quite happy to have it gone from my life completely, forever. More than likely I'll get back into it eventually, but I've realised that most of the time it just pisses me off.

I fucking hate Sky/BT and their dickhead pundits and commentators. The game is full of greedy, self-important bastards and the bias in all aspects of the game is infuriating. I might tune in for a game or two on TV from next week, but just as likely won't.

Nicholas Ryan
32 Posted 12/06/2020 at 13:49:18
Apparently they're making a sequel to the cult film 'Withnail and I'.... it's called 'Modus Oper and I'.... OK, I'm going!
Charles Brewer
33 Posted 12/06/2020 at 16:19:56
I hope that all the teams in the Premier League apart from the RS (and the relegation lot) treat the remaining games with complete contempt. Kick the ball anywhere, 5 minutes for a throw in or a goal kick, uncontested corners. Perhaps keepy-uppy competitions between the teams. This isn't a competition worth watching or turning up to.

I have little doubt that Everton will get the usual string of injuries – slips in the bath, standing on bootlaces, bizarre gardening accidents, Sigurdsson appearing in an advert "I've fallen and I can't get up" stuff.

Mike Connolly
34 Posted 12/06/2020 at 16:37:27
A Man Utd fan said to me in work that Everton will suffer more than most teams having no fans at the match. He continued and said he hates going to Goodison – it's the most intimidating ground he's ever been too.

He pointed out what we already knew, that our away form is shite. This is going to prove something to us now with no fans in the ground. Are our players good enough and skilful enough to win games? Or do we still need to rely on our fans to grind out results? We'll find out soon. COYB

Joe McMahon
35 Posted 12/06/2020 at 16:43:20
Mike, if it's so intimidating for away teams at Goodison, why do we fail at home to the likes of teams in the bottom 3 – not to mention a pitiful home record against Liverpool?
Tony Abrahams
36 Posted 12/06/2020 at 16:51:06
If Liverpool would have won at Goodison last season they might have been going there next week looking to win to retain the title.

Mike Connolly
37 Posted 12/06/2020 at 17:00:09
Well, Joe, may be if it was not so intimidating, we may well have been beaten more times at home. Like I said, we shall see in the coming weeks with a less intimidating Goodison how we get on.
Paul Birmingham
38 Posted 12/06/2020 at 22:14:40
Tony @7, I'm with you and, football aside, the whole global economy is slumped and the UK's is plummeting. The Premier League is on a fine line but revenues will dip and the clubs will have to cut their cloth accordingly.

I said to a mate who supports Hearts a few weeks back when the Scottish Premier League positions were decided, that most Scottish teams will end up part time or disappearing. The same will happen in the lower leagues and amateur football.

God forbid if the terrible days of unemployment from the 70s and 80s return.

At the end of the day, each to their own view... but, for me at this time, the match isn't important and won't be until the vaccine for this terrible disease is found.

Is life liveable without the match? For me, it is, but Everton Forever and ever... but the magic has waned.

Andrew Clare
39 Posted 13/06/2020 at 10:09:23
A very good article.

Purely on the football front, I too was alarmed about that 0-4 thrashing by Chelsea. I had the same feeling in Martinez's first season when we did so well but we were thrashed midway through the season. I'm beginning to worry that we are going to blow the opportunity that Moshiri's arrival gave us.

Whatever the club have tried to do since his arrival has failed. Bad choices of manager and some awful signings have been disastrous.

I was just as excited as anyone about Carlo's arrival as his CV is unmatched but I feel that he has a massive job on his hands, unlike any other task that he has taken on in the past.

I hope my worries are misplaced and we start off next week with a victory.


Brian Murray
40 Posted 13/06/2020 at 12:44:16
Post 39 Andrew. Unfortunately, you are only as good as your last game, as the saying goes. Carlo was and is a great coup for the club but the obvious frailties have not so far been addressed, goalkeeping especially. I'm sure he's on it and not relying on Brands who seems to have left his Midas touch in Holland.
Rick Tarleton
41 Posted 14/06/2020 at 14:30:13
I'm glad I'm not alone. Football is way down my list of priorities. I can summon up little enthusiasm for the derby match. For the first time in over 65 years, I am not obsessed by all things Everton.

I hope when football returns that I re-find some of the old enthusiasm.

Eric Myles
43 Posted 14/06/2020 at 15:48:40
Kevin #9, if footballers are not taking pay cuts then they will still have to pay full taxes on their full pay.
Kieran Kinsella
44 Posted 19/06/2020 at 22:06:26
It's a bit like feeling compelled to go to a disliked uncle's funeral with the derby this weekend. You haven't seem him in ages, he caused you lots of heartache but somehow you feel duty bound to show up. Gosh, the life affirming joy of supporting Everton.

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