The coronavirus situation continues to escalate, and it continues to cause problems.
Yesterday the SFA announced that games are not likely to be affected in the short-term, but even as they were telling the press that there were meetings going on which make it abundantly clear that they are not far from taking the decision to shut stadiums down.
When the decision comes it will almost certainly be the correct one.
Indeed, many think it should have been taken already along with a whole raft of other measures all designed to put as many people behind their front doors as possible. In the end, with no vaccine and no cure, there are only two options; shut people in or let this run amuck.
No sane government is going to choose the latter option. There is resistance to the idea of doing this right now, but it’s going to be overwhelmed by events. In the end, the governments are going to do what’s both sensible and right. Football will not avoid the impacts.
Celtic has options. Our fans have options. The club has its own streaming service; if home matches are played in front of empty stands the club can put all the matches online, for free, for all who might want to watch them. Sevco can probably do the same, although for them there will be serious impacts as they aren’t sitting on a cash reserve and actually face serious challenges in financing as it is. The consequences for them, and other clubs, could be severe.
Today the SFA told clubs to make sure that their insurance was all paid up and covers events such as a mass cancellation of fixtures.
Those clubs which have not made those provisions will be in a bad spot, but I’ve always believed that if teams can afford to pay footballers massive amounts of money they can get the basic stuff right. If they choose not to, hell mend them.
Even so, insurance will help in some of the cases, but there are clubs who will be sent spinning to the brink because of this. Yet that will be true for businesses great and small up and down the country as a consequence of this thing. It can’t be helped.
Economics cannot trump public safety. If one positive emerges from this mess it’s that we might, finally, get real about the sort of action society as a whole and governments at large will need to take to address global warming, whether that’s in mitigating its effects or dealing with its consequences.
We’re about to get the full lesson on that one in miniature. It might prepare us for bigger challenges to come somewhere down the line.
For football, this cannot become a year zero moment. League titles and places will have to be allocated come what may, even if that means ending seasons early and awarding them on an “as you were” basis. Cup competitions are different, as their European places can be allocated on the basis of league finishes.
If we get this season’s Scottish Cup final, I will consider it a minor miracle.
Frankly it’s the only thing I can see preventing the fourth treble.
But whilst the season has to have some resolution, the idea that we can carry on as normal without anything changing before this campaign ends … that’s for the birds. It would take something almost miraculous for us to be able to finish this season without at least playing games behind closed doors or having to abandon matches altogether.
This thing is way in front of the numbers.
We’ve got 373 cases in the UK and five people are dead. It still sounds minor. It still sounds like nothing. It can still seem as if those urging serious action are being alarmist. But on 22 February, Italy had 62 cases. A week later it had over 800. A week after that there were 4000.
There are 10,000 cases in Italy right now, and more than 600 dead.
And everything is shut down.
It will be a tragedy for football if clubs wind up in critical situations because of this, but there are bigger things to think about here. Celtic, as ever, will weather the storm. Our fans will still get to watch the club play football, albeit probably not inside the grounds.
Other clubs might not be so lucky, but I’d rather have them on life support than thousands of people.