England

FA want to finish season, warn of financial disaster

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The chairman of the FA, Greg Clarke, has warned of huge financial problems within the English game amid the coronavirus pandemic and says the FA wants to finish the season, if they can.

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Clarke issued an open letter after days of criticism across the English game as Premier League clubs have been criticized for applying for the UK government’s furlough scheme which will pay staff 80 percent of their current wages.

Liverpool issued an apology and reversed their decision to furlough 200 staff members, while players have revealed various views on whether or not the 2019-20 season should be finished or deemed null and void.

“We are committed to finishing the professional football season as this resolves the issues of promotion and relegation together with title winners on merit. However, we may not be able to finish the season as football is not our priority, human life is, and we will do as the Government directs as the pandemic unfolds,” Clarke explained.

The head of the English FA admitting that they may not be able to finish the season is a big statement, as previously the stance of everyone involved in the pro game in England has been that the season should be completed.

As for the road ahead, nobody knows the long-term impact it will have and how long it will take for things to get back to normal. With revenue streams disappearing overnight, clubs and leagues are scrambling and several clubs in the lower tiers of English soccer are in serious danger and are taking advantage of the UK government’s furloughing scheme.

“Football faces economic challenges beyond the wildest imagination of those who run it. The pandemic will be followed by its economic consequences and all business sectors will suffer. We face the danger of losing clubs and leagues as finances collapse,” Clarke said. “Many communities could lose the clubs at their heart with little chance of resurrection. In the face of this unprecedented adversity, all the stakeholders within the game from players, fans, clubs, owners and administrators need to step up and share the pain to keep the game alive.

“Everyone should understand that the Premier League clubs are not immune from the impact of this and whilst they are impacted to different degrees depending on their cost base, the potential overall financial impact is huge. We must have a plan to ensure that English football is not decimated should this season be lost and next season blighted.”

Clarke added: “Time is pressing as football burns through its cash reserves with no sign yet of a resumption of the game.”

With Premier League clubs and players trying to help out their local communities wherever they can, the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) are currently locked in talks with players, leagues and other stakeholders as to how players can take pay cuts to help the effort in the UK.

The situation is very clear. Aside from the super clubs in the Premier League, the vast majority of professional clubs in England will be pushed to its limits to survive financially amid the coronavirus pandemic. Reports suggest that many clubs have less than three months worth of cash in reserve to keep them going and tough decisions will need to be made to cut costs in the coming weeks.

Luke Shaw: Scrap season and start again

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Man United and England defender Luke Shaw has said the 2019-20 season should be scrapped and started again if games cannot be completed.

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Shaw, 24, was speaking during a FIFA 20 competition which was streamed on Twitch to raise funds for UNICEF’s Combat Corona campaign.

“Scrap it and start again. Start it again, yeah,” Shaw said. “It’s got to be, you know. If we can’t carry it on, it’s got to be void.”

All 20 Premier League clubs remain committed to completing the 2019-20 season whenever ‘safe to do so’ but there’s no resumption date currently lined up.

One option is for games to played behind closed doors, when possible, but Shaw isn’t keen on that either.

“Fans are so important. You realise it even more (now),” Shaw said. “I think the sport is for fans really… I think if you don’t have fans, and you don’t play in front of fans, it just doesn’t feel right. Especially on matchday, the fans are always amazing and always help the team. Whether it’s home or even away, our fans are always brilliant and I feel like they’re always there with us.”

The view of Shaw differs slightly from other Premier League players who have discussed the current suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic but there is a general consensus that they want to move onto the next season as soon as possible. When it comes to Shaw, his views are very interesting as Man United had rallied to be three points off the top four and had plenty of momentum ahead of the final nine games of the current league campaign, as well as being in a great position in the latter stages of the Europa League and FA Cup.

Man City star Kevin de Bruyne wants to move on from the 2019-20 season as soon as possible as he doesn’t think the start of the 2020-21 campaign should be delayed and is concerned about players being injured if they are asked to resume the season quickly.

Other players are fine to wait to see what the Premier League plans but Tottenham forward Harry Kane has also expressed his desire to move on from the current campaign if games cannot be completed by the end of June.

It is intriguing to hear so many differing views from Premier League players on when the season should resume, if at all, but Kane, Shaw and De Bruyne are all saying something slightly different. Therein lies the problem. How will a consensus be reached between PL clubs with so many different ideas and opinions on what should happen next?

If you throw club affiliations and rivalries into the mix, why on earth would a Man United star want the current season to be deemed as ‘void’ when Liverpool are 25 points clear at the top of the table and just five points away from securing the Premier League title…

Kyle Walker apologizes after reports of sex party during quarantine

Kyle Walker
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Manchester City and England star Kyle Walker has issued an apology after published reports said he hosted a sex party while on lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic.

Walker and a friend apparently paid to have two escorts spend Tuesday with them, with the defender ironically issuing a Wednesday message imploring people to observe quarantine rules.

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Here is Walker’s apology, via The Telegraph:

“I want to take this opportunity to issue a public apology for the choices I made last week. I understand that my position as a professional footballer brings the responsibility of being a role model. As such, I want to apologise to my family, friends, football club, supporters and the public for letting them down.”

Man City issued a stinging rebuke of Walker, saying they’ll be conducting an “internal disciplinary procedure.”

“Footballers are global role models and our staff and players have been working to support the incredible efforts of the NHS and other key workers in fighting the effects of the Covid-19 coronavirus, in any way we can. Kyle’s actions in this matter have directly contravened these efforts. We are disappointed to hear the allegations, note Kyle’s swift statement and apology, and will be conducting an internal disciplinary procedure.”

Footballers certainly have not been above reproach during the pandemic, though so many have made positive news via donations or spreading the message of social distancing.

Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish was allegedly involved in a car crash, while curfew-breaking Serbian international Aleksandar Prijovic has been sentenced to three months house detention. Fellow Serbian striker Luka Jovic of Real Madrid was investigated for a similar offense earlier this month.

Man United star Rashford close to return

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Man United star Marcus Rashford is closing in on a return to full fitness as the young striker continues to recover from a serious back injury.

Rashford, 22, suffered a double stress fracture in his back in January and it looked like his season was over for Man United and England.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic halting the season, Rashford is now set to be ready for the final months of the campaign, whenever the Premier League season resumes.

Speaking to our partners in the UK Sky Sports News, Rashford revealed he is close to a full recovery.

“I feel much better. I have a scan in another couple of days and that should solidify it, but I feel much better compared to two or three weeks ago,” Rashford said. “I feel 10 times better now. For me, now it’s just about getting ready to build up back up to training and then playing games for the team. I’m in a much better place. I’m much happier than I was about a month ago so things are looking positive.”

Man United would gain a huge boost from having Rashford back fit and available as Anthony Martial, Odion Ighalo and Mason Greenwood have stepped up admirably in his absence but there’s no doubt he has become Man United’s main man.

Rashford had scored 19 goals in 31 games in all competitions for Man United before his injury and that is his best tally of goals in his young career so far.

With Rashford on the left, Martial up top, Bruno Fernandes in the hole and Daniel James on the right, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has the perfect blend of pace, power and creativity and he now has Ighalo and Greenwood to jump off the bench and mix things up when needed.

Man United are three points off the top four with nine games to go and have momentum as Solskjaer’s boys are 11 games unbeaten in all competitions and are hitting top gear at the perfect point in the season before the suspension arrived. Rashford’s return should only continue that resurgence, whenever games return.

Harry Kane close to full return from injury

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Harry Kane is close to a full return from injury and Tottenham Hotspur will definitely have their star striker back fit and ready whenever the season resumes.

Kane, 26, has been out injured since Jan. 1 when he badly injured his hamstring at Southampton and he has since had surgery to repair the injury.

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Given the Premier League has been suspended until at least April 30 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Tottenham duo Kane and Heung-min are working hard to return for the remaining nine games of the season.

Speaking to Tottenham’s website, Kane revealed he is closing in on a return and is a couple of weeks away from full fitness.

“I’m not too far away, I’d normally hope to be back with the team in two or three weeks’ time,” Kane said. “I’m at a good stage, pretty much doing everything, now it’s about building up my fitness. So from my personal point of view, I’m in a good place. It’s such a strange situation, no-one has been in this situation before. Like anything, you have to take the positives out of it and do what you can. So far, me and the family are well, and I’ll continue to work hard, work in the gym, work from home and do what I can. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Kane’s challenge now is to keep stepping up his recovery which is tough with training canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With the UK on lockdown for at least the next three weeks, the Tottenham and England star will remain focused on doing the right things to be as fit as possible when training, and the season, resumes.

“I’m good. From a rehab point of view and personal point of view, I’m doing really well. I’m at a good stage now and just working hard, doing a lot of recovery, a lot of rehab and just waiting to see what happens to the season,” Kane said. “Other than that, my family is well, and obviously everyone is thinking about coronavirus at the moment and it’s a time to be together, to stay safe and hopefully everything will be alright.”

When the season does eventually resume, having Kane back fit will obviously be a huge boost for Jose Mourinho and Tottenham. He gives their attack a focal point and even though Son stood in for him admirably during the first few weeks of his injury, when the South Korean forward broke his arm and Steven Bergwijn went down injured too, Tottenham became a rudderless ship.

Captain Kane will soon be back to steer it.