Premier League fails to grasp new reality as self-preservation takes priority over 'sporting integrity'

Clubs trying to use a global pandemic to save themselves from relegation is reprehensible

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The Premier League’s capacity to attract attention has helped propel it to a position of such prominence. In one respect, the globally popular soap opera resumes on Monday with its latest meeting.

And yet it has ceded the limelight to an often overlooked peer at the weekend. The Bundesliga's largely successful comeback showed what the Premier League is missing out on: football, for instance, and its attendant blend of quality and excitement.

English football’s answer – Brighton’s Zoom press conferences, ghosted newspaper articles and an enduring inability to come together about anything – feels rather substandard.

The German clubs agreed to play again, recognising the financial necessity for both them and the game in general. With a minimum of fuss, La Liga decided to play in June. Serie A will do likewise if the Italian government permits. There are French clubs who wish their government had not aborted their campaign.

Then there is the Premier League, where debates have featured the worst sort of English exceptionalism, treated as though issues only affect its members who, in some cases, have ignored their wider duties to a sport where the Football League, the grassroots and women’s games ought to get more funding from the elite.

None of which can happen if certain Premier League clubs condemn the division to a shortfall of over £1 billion (Dh4.4bn) by putting self-preservation first and voting against a resumption.

It has been a tawdry saga where legitimate safety concerns and questions about new protocols are being roped into arguments involving neutral venues, games behind closed doors, a lack of time to train players and, above all, attempts to avert relegation.

Clubs just above the drop zone have been the most vocal in attempting not to play again. Some have said they would play at neutral venues if there was no threat of being demoted. That will be vetoed by the FA. Norwich director of football Stuart Webber then suggested that if the Championship is not completed then no one can be promoted.

The words “sporting integrity” have been used by those who have demonstrated least of it. It feels as though there are clubs who want to be in the Premier League but don’t want to play in the Premier League and don’t want anyone else to play in it either. Trying to use a global pandemic to save themselves from relegation is reprehensible.

There has been a lack of perspective and not merely because players who will be tested twice a week and will be in some of the most secure workplaces around will be at far less risk than millions of others.

Bundesliga footballers signed up to play. Some of their Premier League counterparts are suggesting they will not. Once again, England may stand alone.

Some have failed to recognise that unprecedented circumstances require a spirit of compromise, not a list of reasons to refuse to do anything.

The seeming new reality is that games will have to be played behind closed doors for some time and that any vaccine is some way off: to halt football because of self-interest is to ignore the reality the game is facing its greatest crisis for decades and that those further down the food chain, who have produced many a Premier League player and formed the sport's lifeblood, require help more than ever.

Not playing, with its concurrent costs, would inflict vast damage on English football and its ecosystem. Thousands of jobs could be lost.

Germany offers a road map and a role model. Hertha Berlin eased their fears of dropping out of the Bundesliga by beating Hoffenheim 3-0. That is the way to do it: on the pitch, not by repeatedly saying no in a videoconference.