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John Laverty

My five point plan to save the football season and avoid Rio Ferdinand's 'null and void' suggestion

John Laverty


Well intentioned: Rio Ferdinand

Well intentioned: Rio Ferdinand

Well intentioned: Rio Ferdinand

Forget your world-renowned virologists and epidemiologists; Chas the cabbie from Muswell Hill has it sussed.

"If you ask me, pal, Johnson should've thrown the migrants out months ago, starting with the French," says he on the radio.

"Instead, he's left Heathrow open like a barn door while the Old Bill are busy nickin' folk for walking on Norfolk Broads, yeah. Wass-all THAT abaht?

"And your man, wasname McQuitty on the box, bangin' on abaht how to avoid this thing then, blimey, he goes and gets it himself.

"The Chinese; don't get me started. I mean, bangin' on and on abaht how they 'ave it under control, innit? Yeah, right! There's a reason their positive cases are disappearing; know what I'm saying..?"

Sadly, a commercial break cut Chas off in his prime. And during that interval there were ads for two different betting sites. As Chas might say, wass-all that abaht?

I'm no gambler, but curiosity intervened so I logged on. First page: Nicaraguan Primera Division.

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Ultimately it wasn't a good day for Chinandega, who lost 1-0 at home to Managua; how many accas did that ruin?

Football is continuing in Nicaragua, albeit behind closed doors, with the Central American country's left-wing president Daniel Ortega insisting that Covid-19 isn't such a big deal. (Nicaragua did, however, announce its first coronavirus fatality at the weekend so that attitude might change).

On this side of the pond, it's looking like there'll be no footy - or any other sport - until the late summer.

Even if a resumption date of, say, May 1 was announced today - and we all know it won't be - you're asking players to perform, in empty stadiums, when either not match fit or not fit (or mentally ready) at all due to self-isolation, illness and fears over continued health risks and even the validity of insurance policies.

Last week, Rio Ferdinand 'sparked controversy', according to the tabloids, by calling for the season to be declared null and void with 10 games to go.

"I just don't see a way that can be done where health isn't compromised," he said.

"All this behind-closed-doors business - you're still going to have players there. Are the players not part of society?"

He added: "There are players who are going to go down with the illness who might not have recovered, or catch it from someone then it spreads to other players. It won't be fair. It's not a level playing field."

Setting aside the predictable online rage about Ferdy being a former United player and therefore not wanting Liverpool to celebrate their first title win in three decades, he does speak a lot of sense here.

The problem is, he's coming at it from the wrong direction.

First of all, let's appreciate how unimportant this is with a planet in virtual lockdown and thousands of people dying.

Relatively speaking, however, the integrity of the season simply has to be maintained.

Rio's idea is to void this one in order to preserve the 2020-21 campaign; my reasoning is to do nothing of the sort, as in...

1. Restart the current season in August; if God spares us, it will then finish in September or early October, and in front of full houses.

2. Start the new season in October.

3. Cancel the League and FA Cups for the 2020-21 season, in order for clubs to make up the lost time and clear the fixtures in time for the postponed Euro 2020.

4. Players signed during the summer transfer window are of course ineligible to play until the 'tail end of last season' matches are completed.

5. Finish this season's Champions League and Europa League competitions in the winter months, with the 2020-21 campaigns going straight into knockout games to save time.

To me it makes sense, although admittedly it's far from perfect, and, as the current hiatus continues to bite, even the richest clubs are starting to feel the pinch.

At the weekend, Juventus players in coronavirus-ravaged Italy (three of them - Paolo Dybala, Daniele Rugani and Blaise Matuidi - have already tested positive) agreed to a wage cut that will save the club £81m over the next four months; you can expect a similar 'sacrifice', if you can call it that, from multi-millionaire players all over Europe.

Meanwhile, if betting on the Nicaraguan Primera Division isn't your bag and watching live games with actual fans on telly is, the Belarusian Premier League has just got under way, and is carrying on regardless.

Not only that, but its administrators are taking advantage of the suspensions elsewhere by negotiating rights deals with those morally bankrupt broadcasters desperate to fill the void.

Already Russian, Ukrainian, Israeli and Indian stations have signed up - and, if you know the right people, you too can tune into Dinamo Minsk v Bate Borisov.

"It's an unprecedented situation," said an irony-free Belarus Football Federation spokesperson, while the country's president, Alexander Lukashenko, has continuously downplayed the need for social distancing amongst his 9.5m subjects.

The self-proclaimed philosopher added: "It's better to die standing than live on your knees. There are no viruses here... I don't see any."

With 94 cases reported at the weekend - the first official figures - I suspect this virus is about to become as visible in Belarus as its well-attended football matches.

What would Chas, the cabbie from Muswell Hill, make of all this? More importantly, what odds can I get on him replacing Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as the next WHO president?

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