It’s the news football fans all over the UK don’t want to hear – Stadiums could be closing their doors and games could be being played behind closed doors again thanks to the recent outbreak of the new strain of Covid.
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These measures are similar to the measures that were put in place for football matches last year, when matches were played behind closed doors and players played with ‘crowd noise’ playing to recreate the atmosphere of a booming stadium. Some countries have already gone back to these rules in a bid to stop rising infection rates, having games that are played in their country held behind closed doors.
But it’s not all doom and gloom – if the games are going to have to be played behind closed doors, there are plans to televise them all with two broadcasters sharing the games between them and maybe even more broadcasters sharing the high load of games.
If the stadiums do get shut in the new year, match days would go back to how they were when the league was in a similar position earlier this year. These contingency plans include the televisation of the games and the staggering of kick-off times to accommodate this.
The main broadcasters of the games are Sky Sports and BT Sport, with other broadcasters such as the BBC and even Amazon possibly taking some of the load of showing the games. These are broadcasters and TV stations that can handle the demands of streaming and showing the games, so there should be minimal disruption to their operations.
Whilst the Premier League themselves haven’t made it clear if they would put limits on capacity in football stadiums in an effort to curb the spread of Omicron, they are subject to the restrictions that are imposed by the Government. This was demonstrated recently with the implication of vaccine passports for football stadiums in an effort to ease the spreading of this Omicron variant.
Whilst many fans will have their fingers crossed for the stadiums to stay open so they can go and support their teams live, Chris Witty, the Chief Medical Officer, has stated that whilst bringing in new restrictions is going to be closely tied to how effective the vaccines are against this new variant and it’s transmission, it’s sporting events that have to cater to masses of people – like football – and venues like nightclubs that will be the first in the crosshairs for changes in allowing people into their venues.
The broadcasters of these games have already faced significant challenges thanks to Premier League games being postponed this season. Just recently, nine matches in the league were cancelled in just one week, causing headaches and disruption for the broadcasters as they try to move their broadcasting schedule around and also lose revenue.
BT Sports have had to really bite the bullet when it comes to the disruption caused by matches being postponed – as Man Utd vs Brentford, Watford vs Burnley, Spurs vs Leicester and also another Man Utd game against Brighton have all been postponed for a later date.
The impact of the lockdown last year has caused significant financial loss to the Premier League too. They had to hand back an eye-watering £223 million to BT Sport and Sky Sports thanks to the effect of the postponements of the games back then. Not wanting to have to shell out that kind of money again this year, it’s likely they’ll be helping the broadcasters where they can to accommodate more games and keep both them and the fans happy.
Not one to take the new variant of Covid lightly, Chief Executive of the Premier League Richard Masters contacted all of the member clubs in the league recently to remind them of how serious the threat of this strain is and urge the clubs to get their players vaccinated, as the Premier League wants to keep matches going as smoothly as possible in an effort to keep fans happy.
There will soon be an emergency meeting of club executives, which will follow with a meeting of all of the 20 member clubs and the captains in an effort to work something out that enables the League to play on with minimal disruptions and maximum safety.