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Understandably, this decision has not been received with enthusiasm. In particular, we sympathise with those local clubs who were looking to end the season on a high note, with trophies and promotions on the horizon.
Everybody in non-league knows the amount of hard work that goes into just keeping a team on the pitch all season. Success at the end of a hard season makes the years of toil worthwhile; to have that taken away due to reasons far beyond the remit of football must be heart-breaking.
However, as Jurgen Klopp has famously stated, “football is the most important of the least important things”. The country is in the grip of a crisis unparalleled outside of wartime. While football often offers a welcome escape from life’s troubles, we cannot allow football to blind us to the gravity of the situation we are in.
Many people, including a number of our volunteers and players, have been infected by this virus. Many of us have friends or family working in front line occupations, risking their health and the health of their loved ones as a direct consequence of PPE provision that would be unacceptable health and safety practice in a routine production line environment, let alone in hospitals facing a killer pandemic.
Most of us are socially distancing, while our older and less well friends and relatives still face weeks, if not months, of further isolation. Unfortunately, some have also lost loved ones prematurely. Our sincere condolences go to all who have experienced such devastating loss.
Of course, one day, we will return to football. However, there is absolutely no certainty when that will be. The biggest clubs, in the European Clubs Association, along with FIFA, UEFA and the Premier League remain committed to the completion of the 2019/20 season. However, the prospect of this being completed before August remains remote. Similarly, both the EFL and National League have kept the option of completing the season on the table.
However, all of the competitions concerned involve professional clubs and players. Full-time professionalism awards clubs a greater degree of isolation and self-containment for their playing squads. In the semi-professional ranks we would be bringing people together for training and matches from an array of backgrounds, from social distancing to front line workers. In the current, and ongoing, climate that is not acceptable.
At the top of the tree, broadcasting revenues make “behind closed doors” a viable option. Obviously this diminishes the further teams are down the football pyramid and playing behind closed doors becomes less viable, although the National League does benefit from a TV deal.
Practically, as a club that relies on gate receipts to cover match related outgoings, we would not be able to consider a behind closed doors option. We also think it is likely that this would apply to clubs that rely on bar takings and the hire of facilities that remain indefinitely closed due to social distancing measures.
Ethically, we are loath to put the health and safety of supporters, volunteers, players and staff at risk should an economically, rather than scientifically, driven partial lifting of restrictions on gatherings be lifted. We believe that, up to the suspension of fixtures after 14th March, football had been unnecessarily cavalier with public health concerns for at least a week.
The blame for this lies fairly and squarely with the government and the disastrously laissez faire policy of herd immunity.
In the continued absence of a testing, tracing and isolating regime, COLFC remains unconvinced that herd immunity has been fully replaced as a government strategy. As such we remain resolute that our supporters, volunteers, players and staff will not be part of any “herd” should that potentially catastrophic, ideologically driven, policy of “taking it on the chin” rear its head again.
We will remain guided by trusted voices, such as Professor John Ashton and the World Health Organisation, and urge people not to be distracted from the task at hand by “nudge” messaging from the government’s Behavioural Insights Team. These, often conflicting, messages are not based on medical science but on behavioural economics and are intended to judge public reaction to political options, not provide public health information.
As things stand, COLFC remains more a community organisation that a football club. We have mobilised our COLFC Community volunteers as part of the Liverpool City Region social and solidarity economy. Parcels of food and household items are being delivered to vulnerable and isolated people on a weekly basis by our volunteers. Our Club Welfare Officer is using social media to provide links to sources of guidance and support, including resources for those who may feel that the current situation is affecting their mental health.
Our PurpsTV YouTube channel is being used as a platform for online fitness sessions, accessible to all ability levels, delivered by Juanita Steel Fitcamp. We ask that everybody involved with the club, in whatever capacity, does whatever they can to make sure our vulnerable neighbours are safe and well.
COLFC sends solidarity and support to all of those workers that are keeping us afloat through these difficult times. The healthcare workers; the nurses, medics, porters, cleaners and all the other staff that prop up the NHS in the face of cutbacks, lack of investment, PFI, outsourcing, low pay and lack of essential PPE. The workers in care homes and in retail, many of them among the most exploited and lowest paid in our economy, but essential to civilised life.
The transport workers, the workers in warehousing and distribution, and all of those that are keeping essential workers and our food stocks in the right places at the right time. The role of these workers must be rewarded with decent pay and the best of conditions, including the health and safety at work that has been criminally neglected in the face of the pandemic threat.
Until we meet again, please look after yourselves and your loved ones by following the strictest guidance on social distancing and the isolation of our vulnerable elders, those with disabilities and those with health conditions.
We remain in the match of our lives.
COLFC Board of Directors