Steve Parish says return of Premier League could boost 'mental health'

Crystal Palace chairman warns of major financial impact on UK taxpayers and football community if season doesn't resume

File photo dated 17-02-2019 of Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish. PA Photo. Issue date: Wednesday April 22, 2020. Crystal Palace have announced they will not be taking part in the Queensland Champions Cup in Australia this July. Club chairman Steve Parish said: “Firstly, the thoughts of everyone at Crystal Palace Football Club are with everyone affected by this terrible virus here in England, in Australia and around the world. Football is of course of secondary importance at this time of global crisis. See PA story SPORT Coronavirus. Photo credit should read Richard Sellers/PA Wire.
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Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish has defended attempts to get the Premier League back up and running this season, saying football’s return could boost mental health and help define the "new normal" for other industries.

In a column penned for The Sunday Times, Parish laid out his argument for resuming the 2019/20 campaign amid the coronavirus pandemic, but only when it is deemed safe enough to do so.

The Premier League met on Friday to discuss "Project Restart", with clubs committed to finishing the season when some social restrictions in the United Kingdom are relaxed.

It is understood the league, which last hosted a fixture on May 9, is still working towards a best-case scenario of resuming the week beginning June 8. There are nine rounds of the campaign remaining.

Parish confirmed he would respect if the government decided football should not return, but said it would help no one if any industry was to "come out the other side in a worse state than we otherwise could have".

He also stressed not resuming the season would have a major financial impact on UK taxpayers and the wider football community, while highlighting the ethical issues regarding a restart.

“Football cannot occupy any paramedic or ambulance that the NHS needs,” Parish said. “We must do our best not to create a public-order issue with supporters attempting to get close to grounds. Perhaps most importantly, we cannot take testing capacity from one person in greater need."

However, he added: "I believe that, just as Formula One is often the precursor to developments that become standard in general road vehicles, so Premier League football with its physical science, medical infrastructures and resources for looking after its people, can begin to define how the 'new normal' might look for a lot of working environments.

"Not only that, in our country and beyond, people need to find ways to move forward mentally, to experience some small relief from the worries of this crisis. In my view a story here and a conversation there about the game last night will not trivialise loss or suffering, but offer a tiny respite from it for many people.

"Football is meaningless – but it is magnificently meaningless. It has the power to lighten lives; why not see if we can use that power again?"


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Parish, Palace chairman for the best part of a decade, claimed that player welfare and safety proposals would "render Premier League football one of the safest places in society to co-exist, much safer than a journey to the supermarket at present".

And he added that nobody would benefit if Premier League clubs faced major financial shortfalls by not completing the season.

"Football is one of the most efficient tax-generating industries in Britain: we pay the players a lot but 50 per cent goes straight back into the public purse," he said. "Overall we pay about £3.3 billion (Dh15.1bn) in tax every year and it is the Premier League that largely funds the whole football pyramid."

Parish said the Premier League pays roughly £400 million each year to the English Football League (EFL), £25m to non-league and grassroots football, while suppliers, contractors and services depend on the clubs in their communities.

"Some Premier League clubs are already warning they face crisis if they cannot get back to playing, and in the EFL many more may face extinction,” Parish said.

According to reports, Friday’s meeting proposed matches being played at select neutral venues around England, with each taking place behind closed doors.