It is soon becoming apparent that as much as football’s return is necessary economically, it is beneficial politically. The Premier League's restart has been seized on by political heads of the country and turned into a tool to ‘lift spirits in the country’.
With the Premier League to start the UK government in exercising its role to ensure that 33 of the remaining 92 games of the season are going to be shown on the free-to-air platforms.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, while addressing the Parliament said that return of live sport to television 'could provide a much-needed boost to national morale".
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This political backing though hasn’t been consistent with the way they have been looked at through the course of the pandemic. In the early weeks of April, many clubs failed to respond to a sudden drop in revenue. Liverpool and Tottenham were among the top teams that signalled their will to use the government’s furlough scheme for non-playing staff to deal with the crises. The criticism that followed was deafening.
Conservative MP Julian Knight accused the Premier League of a "moral vacuum."
During a daily news briefing at the height of the crisis, the UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Premier League players to "take a pay cut and play their part". Conservative MP Julian Knight accused the Premier League of a "moral vacuum." Both clubs of course bowed to the public pressure and quickly reversed their decision to use the scheme.
"When the furlough scheme and the discussions around player salaries and taking pay cuts arose, my feeling was that it was opportunistic on the part of the government and actually very cynical," Professor Simon Chadwick, Director of Eurasian Sport at Emlyon business school told AFP.
"Within weeks the government had flipped again and suddenly this is important for national well-being, social cohesion and national identity, providing a diversion from the pandemic.
"This was the government using football to achieve its own ends, rather than of football itself, or fans and the population."
MLS to Return in Orlando
Orlando City and Inter Miami will start Major League Soccer's (MLS) 26-team tournament on July 8 after a four-month shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The North American league had its group draft on Thursday for the ‘MLS is Back Tournament’ that is going to select the winner on August 11 at the Walt Disney World Resort sports complex in Orlando, Florida.
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The event will not have any spectators, featuring three group-stage matches for every team that will count toward the MLS regular season put to a halt in March after the play was on for just two weeks.
Miami, the new MLS club owned by David Beckham, is yet to play a home match and is in Group A along with New York City FC, the Chicago Fire, Philadelphia Union and Nashville SC.
Defending champions Seattle Sounders are in Group B with FC Dallas, the Vancouver Whitecaps and San Jose Earthquakes.
Each team will play three matches in the group stage. The top two teams from each group along with the four top third-place finishers will move forward to the knockout round of 16, which will be held between July 25-28.
EA Sports to Supply Crowd Noise
In a surreal sequence of events caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Electronic Arts (EA Sports), the video game company behind the famed FIFA game series, is set to collaborate with the Premier League and La Liga to provide crowd noise during the broadcast.
EA will produce the noise which the company has gathered over the years for its FIFA football franchise.
"This is definitely not a situation anyone thought of to show off our library. The important thing is hopefully it enhances the experience for someone watching a game," EA audio artist Paul Boechler said.
Producer and designer for EA Sports Andrew Vance said that broadcasters will have over 800 sound clips available for their respective leagues with the crowd chants at Anfield during Liverpool matches to Barcelona fans at Camp Nou expressing displeasure after a player is shown a yellow card.
"The simple way to look at it is that the sound operator will be like a DJ. He will have a mix board and sound board where he can hit the button for reaction from a tackle from an away player or a shot from the home team," Vance said. "There is nothing simulated or generic. It is all club-specific content. You are hearing everything that has been captured from home fans."
Fans first encountered EA-supplied audio when the La Liga kicked off on Thursday, In the opening game Sevilla beat Real Betis 2-0. The Premier League is set to return on Wednesday June 17.
‘Black Lives Matter’ on Kits
Premier League players are set to wear “Black Lives Matter” messages on their jerseys once the competition resumes.
During a conference call on Thursday clubs discussed ways players could contribute to the growing need for eradication of racial injustice from society.
Although, the messages on kits are yet to be finalised ahead of the league resumption on Wednesday. The clubs have also discussed having the National Health Service logo on players jerseys.
Several Premier League players have taken a knee as part of a support to anti-racism gestures ignited by the death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for around eight minutes forty six seconds, as he gasped for air and called for the pressure to be eased..
While the law of the game prohibits ‘any political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images’ during a match the English Football Association has said ‘common sense’ would be applied when assessing the context of on-field messages.
Swiss Clubs Lose Restart Appeal
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has rejected appeals by two Swiss football clubs that were seeking to complete their league season despite the coronavirus pandemic.
The Swiss Soccer Association suspended all leagues below the Second Division and dismissed promotion from the third division.
Leaders of the third-division Yverdon Sport asked CAS to approve its promotion and both Yverdon and second-place Rapperswil-Jona appealed to the court to order the resumption of season.
The court says the Swiss soccer body did not violate its rules and dismissed the appeals one day after a fast-track hearing was held Thursday. Switzerland’s top two divisions will resume games next week.
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