The news today that the Spurs game has been called off due to a viral outbreak, and that Leicester have travelled for their Europa League tie with a half strength team are signs of what we’re up against at the moment as the country braces for Omicron impact.
You know, there are people who read my stuff who think I’m scaremongering. The problem is, they’ve been saying that since February 2020, when I first suggested that the global health emergency could be what derailed our quest for ten in a row.
Just a month or so later, we were in lockdown. When I say that we’re very near to a point where the supposedly unthinkable becomes thinkable again I am basing it on very careful examination of where we are and where other countries are on the curve.
A lot of them are locking down already, and as much as we have a clown-car driver in Downing Street at the moment, events will very quickly move him down the same road if the hospitals start to fill up and it looks like we’re heading for a national calamity.
And we are much, much closer to that point than many people are aware.
Well before it comes to that, football will suffer along with other mass attendance events. There are some who think the doors should have closed or attendances been limited already, because the new outbreak is potentially so serious that we really should be treating it, already, as if it’s the worst case scenario until we know it isn’t.
But with SAGE and other bodies screaming in Downing Street’s ear, and the government already in a precarious place, the big decisions won’t be put off for two much longer. Football itself could be stopped entirely. I don’t think it will be, but it’s not impossible.
But every club will have an outbreak to contend with over the next few weeks and months, and the only thing you can hope for is that it’s a mild one or that it arrives at the right time. We’ve been terribly unlucky so far on both fronts, so what are the odds?
The plight of those two English clubs – and Rennes too, let’s not forget – is a warning of what is almost certainly on its way to Scottish football. Thankfully we’re out of the realm, or seem to be out of the realm, of clubs forfeiting games for being unable to play due to outbreaks … but the fixture backlog that could be created here is obviously considerable.
We need to be mindful of this, extremely mindful of it. The two English clubs are the warning shot, and this isn’t even infection, so far as we’re aware, with the new strain. That could present a different level of trouble all on its own.
Celtic, I’m sure, is thinking about this already. We, as fans, need to accept that it’s probably coming and in the meantime do our bit to delay it as long as possible.