Former Liverpool and England right-back Glen Johnson, speaking to British newspaper the Daily Mail, has sensationally claimed that politicians in Westminster are unfairly demonising footballers, as Health Secretary Matt Hancock among others have called on them to take pay cuts to offset any potential financial damage to their clubs brought on by the pandemic, whilst also stating that the return of football could “boost the nation’s morale”.
“I think it’s a disgrace - how politicians can say that? You can’t make your cake and eat it. Most people enjoy watching sport whenever it’s on and obviously football is a massive part of that. I think it’s bang out of order,“– Johnson said in response to recent criticism from MPs that was directed at footballers, over the issue of pay cuts.
Johnson was not the only notable footballer to voice his opinion on criticism directed at athletes and plans to resume play.
In an interview with the YouTube channel “Talk the Talk”, Watford striker Troy Deeney expressed his concern at the potential health risks posed by a return to training.
"It only takes one person to get infected within the group and I don't want to be bringing that home. My son is only five months old; he had breathing difficulties, so I don't want to come home to put him in more danger," Deeney stated.
Deeney also suggested that the logic in Westminster’s decision to loosen the UK’s coronavirus lockdown is flawed.
"I can't get a haircut until mid-July but I can go and get in a box with 19 people and go and jump for a header and nobody could answer the questions, not because they didn't want to, just because they don't know the information. So I said if you don't know the information, why would I put myself at risk." – the striker concluded.
Football in the UK has been suspended since March, due to the ongoing threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic, and Europe’s professional football associations have until the 25th of May to report to UEFA, the continent’s governing body, whether they intend to press on with their seasons.
The Netherlands, France, Belgium and now Scotland have already thrown in the towel and ended their campaigns prematurely, whilst England, Spain, Italy and Germany are pressing ahead with plans to resume play, which will most likely take place behind closed doors should it resume.
Premier League clubs are set to vote on whether a proposal to use neutral grounds to see out the season should go ahead, later this week, after the ballot was called off last week over fears that the proposal could be shot down.
If the suggestion is ruled out, then only a few options for concluding the campaign remain viable.
These include rendering the season “null and void”, calculating the final positions based on mathematical algorithms, or simply ending the league with the current standings in place.
All of these scenarios could prove problematic to clubs in both the upper and lower echelons of the Premier League, and legal challenges are likely to be mounted if teams are either denied honours or forcibly demoted, given the exceptional circumstances.