Today, a report from England makes it clear that the lockdown was way too slow in happening. Nothing most of us haven’t already sussed on our own. What’s interesting is the shadow it casts on the SPFL decision to shut down Scottish football when it did.
This undisputedly saved lives. Probably a lot of them.
It is clear that the outbreak south of the border was at least partially seeded by two major events; Champions League football and the Cheltenham Festival. The lockdown, when it happened, came too late to prevent a lot of deaths.
This is broadly consistent with what virologists have been saying the whole time.
There is an astonishing book about the government’s disastrous handling of this crisis; Failures Of State, by George Arbuthnott and Jonathan Calvert. It has to be read to be believed. It lays bare the calamitous handling of this from those at the top of Westminster politics. It was clear from early on, January and into February, that we were on a trajectory towards disaster.
Action should have been taken much sooner. It is incredible that the SPFL got there in front of the government. We should be grateful for small mercies.
There are two facets to this which are worth exploring. The first is that although industry lobbyists have consistently denied that major sporting events held outdoors were focal points for this thing the real experts have been saying from the start that they are. They have been vindicated time and time again, which will not have surprised any of them.
It is clear that a lot of people got this wrong. A few of them should be sitting down today to a large plate of humble pie. Not all will partake.
The truth is, the Scottish Government would only have been five minutes behind football’s own decision and I still believe had we not been going to Ibrox to clean their clock that the decision might not have been taken when it was. But I thank God for that decision just the same, because there is no doubt at all that it saved many, many people.
The second element of this which ought to be explored is the one that won’t be; that whilst Celtic and other clubs were treating this matter with the utmost seriousness one club decided that it presented opportunities which were too good to pass up.
That club spent this thing testing the regulatory boundaries as far as it could.
It used the crisis to try and decapitate the SPFL board; just what the game needed during a major shut-down, a coup de tat.
They then made an astonishing public statement which was, far and away, the most reckless and desperate of the whole pandemic; they would not formally recognise the winners of the title unless the games were completed in front of full stadiums.
They said that they were perfectly happy gambling with your life and mine and the lives of their own fans at the same time just to make their point. These people would have had fans dance with death just for the chance of preventing us being champions.
You know, I said at the time that their statement was the most reckless that has ever been released by a Scottish football club. Nothing before it or since has come close to how spiteful, deranged and outright dangerous that statement was.
Don’t forget, that even in those countries were the league campaigns were completed, there were no fans allowed in the grounds. Our rivals made it clear that they found even that outcome unacceptable. You’ll notice how they changed their tune when they won their own title in front of no spectators, although they bent and broke almost every regulation during the run-in as they openly encouraged their supporters to breach health guidelines to “celebrate.”
Ten years from now, when people look back on this pandemic in horror for the lessons to be learned one of those lessons will be that there are people willing to exploit even something like this for their own benefit. Our rivals names will be etched into that history, in shame.