Craig Salmon’s Soapbox: Sports authorities need to think outside the box
These are unprecedented times in our lifetimes, is what I keep hearing. For the vast majority of us that is true, but for a small percentage of the population, they have kind of been here before.
Those people, who will be well into their 80s and 90s by now, will no doubt – when they hear world leaders talk about putting their countries on a war footing because of the coronavirus outbreak –cast their minds back to 1939.
That, of course, was the year when the Second World War started – and life as they knew it was about to change, with the war lasting six years. This current particular ‘war’ is not a case of Man fighting his fellow Man thankfully, and the world is working together to combat this virus which has already taken many thousands of lives and has the potential to take many more.
Most people who are living now will have only been children and teenagers when UK prime minister Neville Chamberlain declared war on Germany after their invasion on Poland.
Now 80 or so years later, they are the people who are most at risk from this disease. I am afraid, like what happened back in 1939, everything must take a backseat while the world tries to get a grip on this awful disease – and that includes sport.
Who knows how long this crisis will last for? Nobody could have foreseen, especially in this day and age, something like this having such an effect on our daily lives, never mind the sporting calendar.
I bet the young Tom Finney never imagined that some of his peak years as a footballer in the 1940s would be lost to a devastating world war.
I think there has to be some creative thinking from the sporting authorities as to the way forward once coronavirus is under control.
I don’t believe, in terms of the football season, that this campaign should be declared null and void or prizes should be handed out now in terms of current league table standings.
The season must be taken to a conclusion and if that means overlapping into what would conventionally be next season, then so be it!
It would feel completely absurd to me to start a fresh season when the previous one has not been finished. Perhaps adaptations will have to be made to next season. Why not split divisions up into two so there are less games, with the top of each group having a ‘play-off ‘ to decide who are champions?
There are reports that the Premier League are considering playing the rest of their games behind closed doors at neutral venues. Hardly ideal, but it is that kind radical thinking which needs to be undertaken.
But how much of a letdown would it be for champions-elect Liverpool – who are 25 points clear – to win the league in front of an empty stadium?
For events like the European Championships which have been delayed until next year and indeed the Olympics – which are due to take place later this summer in Tokyo – there is flexibility with them taking place every four years.
Other sports are looking at ways and means of coping with the crisis. The French Open in tennis has already said they will stage their tournament at a later date, although Wimbledon is at risk due to its grass surface.
Could this year be the moment when The Open – golf’s most prestigious tournament – is staged away from the UK on foreign soil, where the climate is warmer, later in the year. Let’s hope it does not come to that, but whatever happens, life is going to be very different in the immediate future.