The Premier League’s Project Restart was given hope when Dominic Raab gave a positive response when we asked him if the Premier League was being realistic.
“I think it would lift the spirits of the nation,” said the Foreign Secretary during the Government’s daily briefing.
“I think people would like to see us get back not just to work and get to a stage where children can safely return to school but also enjoy pastimes, sporting in particular.”
Raab did confirm that it will be a long time before crowds will be seen at football matches and other professional sporting events but it is clear the Government see the resumption of the Premier League as something which will raise the country’s morale.
“I know the Government has had constructive meetings with sports bodies to plan for athletes to resume training when it’s safe to do so,” Raab went on.
“I can tell you the Culture Secretary (Oliver Dowden) has also been working on a plan to get sports played behind closed doors when we move to the second phase – that’s something I can tell you we are looking at.”
Raab suggested football’s return behind closed doors is ‘under active consideration’, which contrasts with the policies in France and Holland where professional sport has been suspended until September at the earliest.
While there has been growing opposition to Project Restart and while ministers repeat the need for caution, it is clear the Government does see sport as a key step in the way out of a lockdown. Ahead of Raab’s comments, Health Secretary Matt Hancock responded to another question about the possibility of the Premier League’s return by saying: “Well, I’m absolutely open to that and horse racing too. And I know that both the Premier League and racing are working on how that might be doable in a safe way.”
Claret and Hugh say:
While it is encouraging that the Government are making the right noises the challenges the Premier League face are very complex and there is still no guarantee when or if football will return this season with or without the Government blessing.
It appears to us that no one wants to be responsible for the final decision so there has been a culture of everyone kicking the can the road for some weeks now.
In France, the government made the decision making it easy for Ligue 1 and 2 to cancel their seasons without blame or recrimination.
In the case of the Premier League, no-one wants to be the bad guy while it is obvious to everyone with a brain that this is all about the money and nothing to do with raising the country’s moral or protecting players and staff health.
There is a lot of grandstanding going on but it remains to be seen whether Project Restart is a viable option.