The government had initially decided to allow fans into stadiums in October. Still, Boris Johnson announced that it would not be possible because of fear that there could be a second wave of coronavirus infections. The Shadow Culture secretary strongly disagrees. She criticizes the government for showing incompetency regarding testing and contact tracing.
Jo Stevens believes the government have failed to provide an effective ‘test-trace’ system, and that is why they do not want to allow supporters in stadiums
The FA, Premier League, Rugby Football Union, English Football League talked about the impact of the pandemic on sports. They envision significant losses if fans are not allowed to go and watch games. Premier League even said they can still host fans without fears of them being infected because they have put in place generalized health protocols that have been put together and inspected by health professionals.
The government wants the leagues to support each other. They also said they would give financial support to clubs if the need arises. The clubs, their managers, and coaches are still not convinced. They said they are losing millions, they even had to cut salaries, and very soon, some clubs might no more exist. Jo Stevens believes that the financial sector will do better if the government puts in an effective test-tracing system.
“The situation is because the government has failed to have an effective test-trace-isolate system in place.” She said. “We are months and months on if we had an effective system in place where people could be tested, traced, and isolated if you got symptoms, clubs would be able to function. We know lower-league clubs survive on ticket revenue, we’ve got to get fans in the stadiums and the grounds.”
She agrees that the health of individuals matters, and so does sports. “Without an effective system in place, we were moving toward this, and it was going to happen. Public health has to come first, but a big part of making sports comeback for everybody, what we want to see is an effective test-trace-isolate system.” She added.
She feels the government is not communicating effectively with the sports community
Stevens thinks the government is not paying much attention to lower-league football clubs. The government is not prioritizing them; meanwhile, they are the ones who depend on ticket revenue and are currently struggling under the wave of the pandemic. She believes the government uses a ‘one size fits all’ approach instead of prioritizing these clubs.
The government doesn’t have a clear and comprehensive plan, that’s what Stevens and the MP of Cardiff Central think. It is in Steven’s view that clubs are trying all they can, but they need to hear from the government to know the way forward. But the question remains, what do they want the government to do to support them? Are sports more important than human lives?
“A lack of effective clear communication has bedeviled government communications throughout the pandemic, and I’m afraid football is one of the casualties of that.” She reasoned. “I think we all understood what the government’s plan was, where we want to get to and how we get there when we would be able to understand the decisions along the way much more clearly
“But it seems to me the government has either ignored what’s coming or they’ve known what’s coming and decided not to say anything. We are months on, and there’s no plan. Clubs have done everything they can, they have business locally, and we know clubs are at the heart of local communities, everybody has tried to do their best, but we need a clear plan.”
The English Football Club has said its 72 clubs will lose £200m without fans for the whole of the 2020/21 season. Rugby Football Union says they are losing £2m every week, which will soon lead to joblessness in the union. The Premier League is also losing £100m every month.
The leagues say they understand the government’s concern over its citizens, but they are also counting their losses. It was these same citizens that wanted sports to come back. Would they take the risk to go and watch games now? How will sports fare after the pandemic?