It is the summer of 2020 and how far have we come. As a devoted sports enthusiast, who has been following almost everything that is televised I have found myself in an odd position. Usually, around this time I would be enjoying the climax of the various sports competitions. Almost definitely would be seated in a local bar arguing with my friends' theater or not a team deserved the win, has the referee influenced the outcome, etc. However, this year is a different story. Why? The answer - the pandemic of the deadly virus COVID - 19.
The Start of COVID-19 - The End of Sports
The situation went south during the month of February, in Europe, that is. I was watching the Champions League game between Chelsea and Bayern with my friends. In addition, all of us were following closely the situation in Italy, which had become a hot zone - the first of many that were to come. We were cautious naturally, but at the time hopeful, it was going to be contained. It is evident that the situation did not materialize as my friends and I hoped and probably every living being on the planet Earth.
So, when we talk about sports and the COVID-19 outbreak, it would be made clear soon how it all started, at least speaking of Italy. The beginning of it was a sports manifestation. A return Champions league game organized in Milan(one of the most hit places in Europe in terms of COVID-19), between the Italian team of Atalanta and the Spanish side Valencia. The match was played on February 19th, just before the gravely ill situation had developed in Italy. Speaking of the game in question, the mayor of Bergamo(the home city of the Atalanta football club), Giorgio Gori, called it a biological time bomb. Indeed, it might as well been having in mind that in attendance were 40.000 people. All of whom were now the potential carriers.
It escalated from sport to sport, resembling the tika-taka football philosophy. Soon basketball teams were in peril, at least those from Italy. No one wanted to set foot in that highly infected land. Who can blame them? I know I would have been the first to say that I would not be going. The solution? Neutral countries. The capital of Serbia, Belgrade, became a battleground between Italian basketball teams and other teams. One such example was between Virtus Bologna and Turkish side Darussafaka which was played in the Belgrade arena, without spectators.
Soon all sports came to a halt. People were dying and are dying all across the globe. We are hit by the hardest pandemic since 1918—Spanish influenza. There were far more important things and still are than whether or not your team won or not.
COVID-19 Problems and Sports
It became evident that our fierce opponent(COVID-19) was here to stay. We have no cure for it, only the hope that a vaccine will come soon. In terms of sports, this now became a problem. Organizing bodies postponed the reopening of stadiums. Postponement decisions were extended time and time again. The discussions were held regarding whether to void seasons from various sports or not. Honestly, at that point, only a person with a deranged sense of priorities could focus on these issues.
There was not enough equipment and not enough medical personnel to help people infected with this virus. COVID-19 ravaged through the globe, leaving people dead and many more in critical conditions. Countries were racing to secure as many ventilators for themselves as possible. Various medications were advertised as cures. None of them turned out to be one. The spread of conspiracies was almost as deadly as the virus itself. While all of this was televised, there were discussions as to how to salvage the world of sports.
The situation started to improve at the beginning of June. It seemed that a lot of sports was going to make its grand return one way or another. Although, no one knew the extent of this virus people were gearing to get back to sports. While these discussions were taking place we were still unsure about the most critical aspects of COVID-19. After the decision to return was made, we found out that not only is this virus being spread by droplets, but also there were significant indications that it could spread via air. There were news stories for weeks that prepared the terrain for the decision to play ball. With all that has been said, one must wonder what it was that prompted this decision under existing conditions?
The "Real" Reason Behind the Return of Sports
We have all witnessed statements around why the sports has returned. Mostly they centered around uplifting the spirits of people. The focus was helping the people. If that was their main goal, they could have easily done that. They could have gone on to buy medical supplies and equipment, but they have not done that, no. The real reason was camouflaged by that of helping people who are in lockdown. That is why we were fed stories for weeks about the safe return of sports.
The real reason behind the return of sports as always money. Not the money they would donate for the purpose of fighting COVID-19. It was the money they stood to lose if the seasons were voided. That money was coming from various sponsors T.V. rights etc. For instance, let us take a look for a brief moment the money the Premier League was going to lose if they did not return. The Premier League clubs were set to lose collectively 500 million pounds from T.V. revenue if the games were not played.
- Premier League clubs set for £500m collective loss due to coronavirus | Football | The Guardian
Premier League clubs should be braced for a collective £500m loss of revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic, Deloitte has warned
It is always about money. So how about they stop camouflaging the truth for ones. The main reason was never the fans. They use them as much as possible. Having said that, it really is a said affair to try and cover-up the sport's return behind the need of the fans. Many of whom were laying in hospital beds fighting for their lives. Many still do. They are testing weekly the players in order to prevent the return of the diesis. While regular people have trouble even getting tests. In the cases they manage to get tested they wait about a week for results in most cases, fearing that they will spread the virus to their loved ones. At the same time, the players do not wait, they get tested and receive the results promptly. It is this disparity that is so painful to watch. They do what they need in order to get the money they want, while other people are struggling to put the food on the table and pay the rent.
Money-Driven Darkness Amid COVID-19
The clubs do not care about anything, but their profit. People will say that they have to do that in order to survive. While that may be applicable to the lower league clubs than the bigger ones, we have to see how atrocious their behavior was during the pandemic. The least we should expect is a certain level of compassion and honesty.
While the big clubs did everything they could in order to get sports back on. While they used every tax loophole along the way. Pleaded with governments for help. We have to ask ourselves what have they done for their respective communities. The answer is little if anything. They went on to furlough much of their staff. Leaving them jobless while money poured into their accounts. Meanwhile, their workers were left high and dry with no means to support their families.
While on the Premier League terrain let us look at how they conducted themselves. A number of clubs led by Tottenham and Liverpool decided to furlough their non - playing staff. At the same time, they continued to pay their players who were at no distress whatsoever and who were not working at the time. The non-playing staff was sacrificed as a result. Later, Liverpool caved under pressure and decide not to pursue the government scheme. The latest in the line of clubs to opt for furloughing their non-playing staff was Arsenal. Arsenal, newly crowned FA CUP Winners announced such a decision. It should be noted that Arsenal by winning the FA CUP have netted a sum of 3.6 million pounds
A Light in Profit-Driven Darkness
It should be said that all of the clubs do not act in this manner. They are not only helping their staff during these hard times but are also giving back to their community.
One of these clubs is the Chelsea Football Club. The Roman Abramovich led club has not decided to use a government scheme. Not only that but they are giving back to their community in various ways throughout this pandemic. On top of continuing to pay their non-playing staff, they have also provided accommodations for the members of the NHS. By doing this they have equipped their doctors with a place to rest and recuperate their energy in order to go back to fighting this outbreak.
This is what the clubs are supposed to do. They are supposed to give back and help their fans as well as everyone else. This is what responsible ownership looks like. It is not all in the profit. Not all in the schemes to make you richer, while your fans whom you "love and care for" so much are dying at hands of either the COVID-19 outbreak or the inability to put food over their tables. Let us hope that more and more clubs will come to sense and start helping out and not covering under the government umbrella. Let us hope, however unlikely it is.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Marko Milutinovic (author) on August 12, 2020:
CJ Kelly from the PNW on August 11, 2020:
The franchise are about money, but that's to be expected. They are businesses. But if you're a fan, it is important to have something to look forward to during the season.
Everyone here in the States is going to miss college football as it's being cancelled for the most part. Hopefully the NFL will survive it.
Are professional sports important? Not really. But neither is that book someone is reading, the painting someone is doing or the video game someone is playing. It's the same thing. An interest, a hobby or a distraction. Whatever you call it, we need it.
Great topic. Nice job.