Watford manager Nigel Pearson has slammed UK prime minister Boris Johnson over what he deems a “lack of leadership” regarding his handling of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which nearly led to Premier League fixtures — along with those of various levels of British soccer — to be played this weekend.
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“I heard one of the statements from the prime minister last night talking about listening, and that the decisions would be based on science and that there’s not necessarily a greater risk with people being together at sporting venues. If that’s based on science, fine, but that doesn’t necessarily make sense to me.
“I wouldn’t want our fans to be going into a situation where they are fearful of contracting something that could possibly affect either themselves or a member of their family.”
“We’ve had players, as most clubs will have done, who have had symptoms of not being well. We’ve had players experiencing illness this week, who have stayed at home.
“We had somebody with a chest infection, somebody with an upset stomach and players who have shown flu-like symptoms. We’ve got one player awaiting tests results on his symptoms.”
A large number of the UK’s soccer leagues intended to go ahead with fixtures as scheduled this weekend — some with empty stadiums, but many with thousands of fans in attendance — on the basis that “the guidance from the relevant authorities remains that there is no medical rationale to close or cancel sporting events at this time,” per a(n early) Thursday statement from the English Football League (EFL).
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The PL released its own statement, much to the same effect, on Thursday: “Following the latest update from Government issued this afternoon, all Premier League matches will go ahead as scheduled this weekend.”
That statement was quickly backtracked when it was revealed that Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta had tested positive for the virus, less than 60 minutes after the PL’s statement. News regarding Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi quickly followed in the same vein, just three hours later.
The sensible decision — to postpone the highest levels of British soccer — was, to Pearson’s overall point, made on Friday. The fact that sporting officials have been forced to take the lead, ahead of government officials from numerous countries around the world, and institute a period of social isolation also speaks to Pearson’s frustration.