How does English Football plan to Manage its Workload?
And so, it was the FA Cup weekend in English football. The first round proper of the competition, according to television; the Third Round, according to the FA Cup. Usually, at this time of the year, it’s time to debate whether or not the FA Cup had lost its magic, and was still relevant. Or rather, over-compensate for a competition that is no longer what it was.
This time, rather, they were no fans around. A seemingly dying competition looked even more tepid. Upsets in the cup (Crawley Town over Leeds United, Chorley over Derby County) have a better feel off the pitch as it does on it. And the question this time is whether or not the FA Cup should even be allowed to have taken place this season.
That might seem a bit much, but it reflects a season of upheaval and compression. A season in which no one wants to make any real concessions. Before the FA Cup this weekend, English football had the League Cup semi-final in midweek – a one-legged affair this time – to decide which two teams would meet for the final at Wembley in April.
For English football, those are what count as concessions. Pushing the League Cup final back. Making the semi-finals one-legged. Doing away with cup replays. But surely that’s nowhere near enough. As you may or may not, we’re living amidst a pandemic (a fact which is as scary as reminders of it are tedious). For places like England, there’s a new strain around, and lockdown has been re-implemented.
But in the midst of a health crisis, there’s still a touch of irresponsibility going around. Footballers have been caught attending parties, exposing themselves to the possibility of testing positive for Covid, with some actually testing positive. Inevitably, there have been fixture postponements as a result in the past few weeks. Games between Spurs and Fulham, Manchester City and Everton, and Newcastle and Aston Villa have been cancelled.
But how does football – particularly English football – plan to manage this workload? With concessions? Doubtful. Asides some meagre changes with the cup competitions, little else is different. Between now and May 15, the league calendar has little place for change, or more cramming. The games in hand are another pickle. Asides the regular window of games, Fulham have to find a way to fix three matches into the calendar. Man City and Spurs have two games that also need to be played.
According to the Premier League’s current fixture calendar (subject to change), there is barely even room for a separate weekend of FA Cup games anymore. Of course, the cup games, including the League Cup final, will also result in more league games being postponed. In a calendar that can’t even accommodate the previously agreed winter break in mid-February.
But why doesn’t football make concessions? Is there a reason why all parties don’t come to the table and agree on some form of cutbacks? Why are both cup competitions happening? Why is there still an international break window scheduled for March? The answer is of no surprise to anyone; finances. Despite talk of using football to improve morale and whatnot, it all leads back to the money. Which is understandable, as the threat clubs face from going under are very much real.
But an unwillingness to even discuss any form of concession reeks of arrogant exceptionalism. The world could be on fire, and Sky would still preview the next Super Sunday games. There’s player burnout to worry about. Physical – at the end of season, there are European Championship games to come, as well as the Olympics, and the AFCON is set to hold during the season. Then mental – they’re literally being asked to perform at an elite level in the middle of a pandemic.
Perhaps all hope rests in the distribution of already approved vaccines. Maybe the end game is to wait for the antidote to be here. But even without the Covid outbreak, there have been complaints about football’s incessant to chuck in more games as they see fit. When does the beautiful game look at mirror and see that its clothes are in tatters?
Kunle Ajao126 Posts
Kunle Ajao is a football writer and columnist for spotkick. Having made a toss of himself trying to actually play the game, he knew better and got a pen instead of boots. Spends a bit of his time with the game, and thinks he's a bit like Sid Lowe. He's not