The road to June 1st’s summer Festival of Football

While it feels pointless to speculate about the path the current coronavirus pandemic might take, there may be a glimmer of hope on the horizon for the much-mooted ‘Festival of Football’ to take place this summer.

The Premier League is currently on hold, with the Telegraph reporting that clubs could try to resume playing on June 1st, in what would give a much-needed lift to so many in the game – both players and staff at clubs, and fans stuck at home bored without one of their main usual pass-times to occupy them.

Some interesting data from shows how China has managed to keep a lid on things in terms of the coronavirus, with this graph below showing how daily new cases of people contracting the illness has plummeted in the last few weeks.

The UK seems to be very much at the start of its struggles with the bug, but if shutting down major gatherings and limiting people’s trips outside of their homes can prove successful, we could soon progress along a similar time frame.

Looking at China, the UK’s worst to come could be in about two weeks, with the government arguably being too slow to shut things like schools, pubs and theatres, but with a recovery in sight now that those measures are now in place.

This could then perhaps mean a four-week drop off in cases, as is already appearing to happen after lockdown in Italy, another of the most badly affected countries…

It still looks like some time before Serie A football could realistically resume, but some have suggested Italy’s ageing population, number of smokers, relatively below-par health service, and particularly bad pollution problems have contributed to their crisis being worse than most other nearby countries.

Of course, there can be no room for complacency on such a serious issue, but one would hope the UK can avoid an Italy-style crisis now that tougher measures on social distancing have been brought in.

Below is the graph for new cases in the UK, which clearly still puts us on a lower point of the curve than Italy has already got to…

However, given that a lockdown surely cannot go on forever – as Donald Trump recently said: “America will be open for business soon, a lot sooner than the three or four months some are suggesting” – this could put us on course for an improvement by about mid-May, meaning a June 1st return date suddenly looks perfectly achievable, rather than the far more ambitious initial targets of 4 April, later pushed back to 30 April.

By the summer, there is surely hope that the virus will be in far lower circulation, the health service will be under less strain, and with people hopefully continuing to be sensible in terms of limiting their social outings, there seems every reason games played behind closed doors would not pose as much of a risk.

In China, the basketball season is due to return on 2 April, with games initially starting out behind closed doors, which gives us a reassuring sight of what the near future could hold for our beautiful game as well.

Gary Neville suggested a quick-fire tournament to finish the season, with games all being completed over the course of nine days to allow minimal disruption to the 2020/21 campaign.

As he said, it would be “something spectacular”, but, as the data shows, that doesn’t mean it’s an unrealistic pipe dream by any means.

For now, do your bit and stay at home as much as possible! The more we can do that now, the quicker things can, as China has shown, return to normal.

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