PREMIER LEAGUE stakeholders will hold another conference call today — and unanimously agree they have no idea when football can return to action.
But none of them will mean a thing until we know when this deadly pandemic is going to end — and that is the trillion-dollar question which absolutely no one has the answer to right now.
I expect the Prem to re-emphasise its complete commitment to avoid curtailing the campaign.
But I am completely committed to winning the lottery. Doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.
More and more Premier League teams are coming around to the idea of playing the remaining 92 fixtures behind closed doors, probably at neutral venues. Yet even that suggestion remains a million miles away while the country is in lockdown.
As Aston Villa skipper Jack Grealish found out to his cost this week, even two footballers getting together is absolutely forbidden at the moment.
So the idea of two full teams plus subs, match officials, coaches, medics, groundsmen and camera crews being allowed to congregate is fanciful in the extreme.
Even if clubs could somehow guarantee that everyone in the stadium was virus-free, they would still need Government backing for football to come out of isolation.
And getting any favours from the authorities seems highly unlikely in light of the way the game is carrying on during this crisis.
Ministers and MPs are rightly appalled that clubs such as Tottenham and Newcastle United have placed all their non-playing staff on furlough and requested a bail-out from the taxpayers.
It is a cynical ploy by the likes of Spurs chairman Daniel Levy and Toon owner Mike Ashley to ultimately slash their wage bills.
The gruesome twosome are prepared to take a short-term hit in terms of negative publicity if it leads to their players taking a long-term pay cut.
They are trying to publicly shame multi-millionaire footballers into accepting a wage cut to bail out hundreds of lower-paid workers.
Gordon Taylor and the Professional Footballers’ Association have so far resisted calls for a collective deferral until they have been allowed to examine the accounts of the clubs.
The players’ union is right to remain suspicious of many club owners, who are seeking to use this crisis to wriggle out of their contractual obligations.
But football’s mega-wealthy really need to understand which way the wind is blowing because there’s a hurricane heading their way and it’s about to blow the whole house down.
The general public is looking for a scapegoat and the players are currently losing the PR war. They need to act fast to ensure they’re not holding the parcel of blame when the music stops.
At the moment they are coming across like Goodfellas mob boss Paulie leaning on struggling restaurants.
“Business is bad? F*** you, pay me. Oh, you had a fire? F*** you, pay me. Place got hit by lightning? F*** you, pay me.”
The reality is very different.
Hundreds of players have been making charitable donations and are helping out with community projects during this time of national emergency.
But unfortunately, it’s not enough to placate an increasingly anxious country which is now struggling to make ends meet. That’s why the well-intentioned #FootballUnited campaign seems to be struggling to reach its target of raising £100,000 to help local communities.
It’s a lovely idea but sceptical members of the public are left wondering why big stars can’t just donate the money themselves. Most players would willingly take a pay deferral to support their lower-paid colleagues and secure the survival of lower league clubs in danger of going into liquidation.
But many owners want way more than that.
They want players to renegotiate their contracts and in an ideal world they would also cut agents out of all future deals.
Football, like every other business, is living in extraordinary times and someone is going to have to pick up the tab when all this is finally over.
The Government has broken all its financial governance to save the country from going broke and somewhere down the line they will have to claw this money back.
So it comes as no surprise that the chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee is now calling for a “windfall tax” on the Premier League’s multi-billion-pound global television broadcast deals.
Julian Knight MP calls the current situation “obscene” — and he has given the clubs until next Tuesday to put their houses in order.
And if they continue to operate a two-tier system of paying their players but not the rest of their staff, he wants the Chancellor to intervene.
That would be the ultimate nightmare for clubs who are already leveraged up to their necks despite that annual windfall.
But after years of living beyond its means, football’s day of reckoning is coming much sooner than anyone bargained for.
McClean and jerk
THE longer this lockdown continues, the greater the chances of bored football stars posting inappropriate material online.
Stoke’s James McClean has already shared a picture of him wearing a paramilitary balaclava to deliver a history lesson to his children.
With a teacher that thick, what hope is there for the poor kids?
But I fear he is not going to be the last numbskull to cross the borders of poor taste.
Footballers have a very short attention span and are obsessed with sharing every detail of their often vacuous lives.
And that’s a dangerous combination which can only end in tears.
Ju must be joking
JUVENTUS chief Andrea Agnelli has got some front when he calls for united responsibility to ensure football’s long-term well-being and sustainability.
As chairman of the European Club Association, Agnelli has spent the past few years trying to turn the Champions League into a closed shop.
If he’d had his way, Europe’s richest clubs would be guaranteed entry every year at the expense of ambitious teams such as Atalanta, RB Leipzig, Leicester and Lyon.
But now the s*** has hit the fan and suddenly we’re all in it together.
Let’s hope that Agnelli remains in isolation long after the rest of Italy has emerged from lockdown.
DURING these difficult times, we have to take solace where we can. One crumb of comfort is the fact that no one has mentioned VAR for weeks. Enjoy the silence while it lasts.