Clubs playing to empty stands are in grave financial peril and the government appears oblivious to dangers beyond the Premier League spotlight
Sport has become a touchstone during the pandemic. Whether the continuation or otherwise of sports the British hold dear deserves to assume so central a place is another matter. A game is after all only a game, and is of little consequence compared with how hospitals, care homes, schools and universities are coping. But from the government’s wish that televised football recommence to boost the nation’s spirits, to the fraught discussion of which clubs and leagues will survive, the question of sport’s future has been inescapable.
The government has, as in most areas, managed to achieve the worst of all worlds. It has permitted the return of sport but without fans, making many clubs nonviable. Hence the long-running argument over whether the Premier League should bail out the rest of football’s creaking pyramid. There were hopes this might be resolved this week, but as with most things Covid-related – the arts bailout, the future of cinemas, aviation, the night-time economy – there is a stalemate, leaving many organisations to muddle through while the government sits on its hands.