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Elite Sport in the UK to Continue – But is Football Suspension Inevitable?

Football with UK Flag PanelAnother week, another governmental U-turn.

It’s hoped by all that 2021 heralds the start of brighter days, but there will be a bumpy ride until that point and the latest national restrictions in England, Scotland and Wales is testament to that.

Reports suggest there won’t be a review until February 15 at the earliest, which means the best part of six weeks indoors for those who can work from home.

At least the continuation of elite level sport will provide some respite. The governments in England and Scotland have confirmed that professional sport will continue as normal – despite amateur and grassroots sport being canned for the six-week lockdown – and that means that football, horse racing and co will carry on behind closed doors.

Sadly, betting shops on the high street will be forced to close their doors as all ‘non-essential retail’ must, and it is estimated that a blanket closure will cost horse racing in the region of £12.5 million each month.

And as time ticks by, the likelihood of the Cheltenham Festival taking place behind closed doors – or with a significantly reduced crowd – has not been lost on the course’s director Ian Renton.

“We’ve accepted that it is going to be a different festival this year to normal,” he said.

“We have to be realistic that it is likely only small numbers of people will be present.

“Let’s see where we are by March, but the team is focused on setting the stage for four world-class days of racing, which are vital to many livelihoods in the British racing industry and will hopefully be enjoyed by many millions of people on television.”

Can the EFL Avoid ‘Inevitable’ Season Suspension?

Emergency Stop Button

At the time of writing, 52 games in the 2020/21 English Football League season have been postponed, with seven of those coming on Saturday just gone.

The rising number of cases across the UK, plus the strain being placed upon the NHS, suggests that sport outside of the upper echelons is in danger of being locked down, and Rochdale’s chief executive David Bottomley believes it is ‘inevitable’ that EFL officials will have to take more serious action.

“[Suspending the league] is inevitable,” he told BBC Radio Manchester in interview.

“Hospitals across the UK are being told they are to face a massive surge in Covid cases, so who are we in football to be trying to add to that situation?”

“Surely just for a month until the vaccine starts to get rolled out, we could have a break.”

The BBC are reporting that the EFL has no plans to implement a ‘circuit breaker’ suspension, although they will continue in their mandatory testing programme while following the advice of medical professionals.

Given the amount that Premier League clubs have invested in testing and other Covid-secure safety measures, it seems highly unlikely that top flight action will be curtailed any time soon, even if growing numbers of players and staff – most notably those at Manchester City and Fulham – continue to test positive.