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A fairer (Faroe) way to complete the Premier League

I have been listening to many different football pundits over the last few weeks debate whether the Premier League 2019/20 season be completed.

Let’s get one thing straight….. the importance of football pales into significance with everything that is going on in the world.  The health, wealth, safety and sanity of everyone on the planet are the key priorities for everyone.

But… football does play a part in meeting some of those objectives for a lot of people, businesses and nations!

As an Evertonian, I would quite happily see this season become null and void and pretend it never happened, but that would be far from fair and rightly be seen as the view of a ‘bitter Blue’… but that is not me.  Again, I would not want to see Liverpool be gifted the title.  That will always be seen as a tarnish of their achievement as being the best team in the country for the last 12 months!

So how do we complete the season??

My choice would be to start the season from where it was left and then hold a shortened version of the tournament next year with each team playing each other once.  Whatever ‘free time’ that is left (if any) can be filled by  playing an additional tournament of other matches just to bring in more revenue to the clubs and other businesses that rely of football.

The unknown at the current time, is whether how many (if any) supporters will be allowed to attend the matches.

However it appears the favoured option would be to play out the season in a shorter turnaround once given permission by the Government, and it is safe to do so.

This could be done at neutral venues either at home or abroad.  If at home then there is a risk that you will not be able to prevent fans congregating at the venue, or meeting up to watch crucial games.  Also if one or two grounds are chosen to host the games then the pitch is likely to take a battering and would be unplayable with potentially multiple games being played daily.

If they are to be played abroad, then there are going to be challenges such as climate (especially in Summer months) and travel / accommodation logistics.

My plan……. not perfect but…….

Play the games at grounds on the Faroe Islands.

The Islands are less than an hours flight north of Scotland, and although fairly close to the UK, they are quite isolated with few opportunities for fans to try to sneak to.  There is only one airport, which will enable security and safety strategies to be made more easily.

The Islands are open to the elements, but in terms of climate during the Summer, it could be an ideal location for those players who are not comfortable playing in very hot conditions.

The pitch of the national stadium and many others on the islands has an artificial grass surface, which will likely bring complaints from professional footballers and possibly their representatives.  However, these pitches are sanctioned by UEFA and FIFA to hold top level matches and the surfaces will allow for lots of games being played on them without fear of them being postponed for a poor surface or water-logging.

It also levels the playing field, literally, for all the teams taking part.

The negatives are going to be logistics for accommodation and travel.  There is probably no capacity on the islands in terms of accommodation for housing all the backroom staff and players for all of the Premier League clubs, and access to suitable training facilities.

However, the close proximity of the islands to the UK could mean that teams could be isolated in hotels within the UK with access to adequate training facilities and close to an airport that could transport the necessary people to the Faroes and back on game day.  This would also ensure some economic benefits to the UK hospitality and travel industry for those airports / hotels accommodating the teams.

I have no idea how the occupants of the Faroe Islands would feel having the Premier League descend on their islands.

Due to their isolation they have been able to contain the Covid-19 outbreak to less than 200 inhabitants (as of 3rd May) with no reported deaths or serious cases.

Opening their doors to potentially hundreds of people from different parts of the UK could risk the health of their population, but these could be mitigated with sufficient security etc.  But I would totally understand their fear and trepidation.

The Faroe Islands may not be the ideal solution, but a similar approach seems to be the only feasible way of completing the season…. but I would be interested to hear of other options.

 

Aberfan – An avoidable disaster that wiped out a generation

Aberfan Memorial
Aberfan Memorial

It is that time of year when I take time to remember those that died in the Aberfan disaster.

On October 21st 1966 an event occurred that scarred a South Wales community and cruelly took away 144 of its inhabitants, including 116 children.

The village of Aberfan was dominated by the Merthyr Vale colliery; a coal mine that provided employment or economic sustenance for almost all of its population; as other mines did for the rest of the South Wales valleys.

Even though health and safety standards and mortality rates in mining had substantially improved over the preceding decades, it was recognised that mining in the 1960’s was still a very dangerous occupation with the prospect of serious injury or death looming to all those who ventured underground.

But this was a risk that the men and boys of Aberfan were willing to take, to provide security and better lives for their families; which makes the circumstances of this disaster even more tragic; for while they were toiling underground, the huge amount of sodden coal waste that had been recklessly dumped on the valley hillside,  made its way down the mountain in the form of an avalanche, that engulfed everything in its path.

One of the buildings that was submerged was Pantglas Primary School, which was full of the local children, who were receiving those crucial early years of education; which for the boys would perhaps give them that start in life which could lead to an adulthood that didn’t involve working down the pits.

Almost half of the children in the school perished, despite the heroic attempts of the men who were called from the mine who were called to join in the rescue attempts… not that any of them required asking, as most knew they were looking for family members or close friends.

Also, as news of the tragedy grew, help was quick to arrive from surrounding valleys communities.

I grew up less than a mile from the disaster site and the memories of that October morning in 1966 are still deeply embedded in the villages and people in and around Aberfan.  Even though I wasn’t born at the time, it hits home when I think that I should have been in high school with the kids of those children that died in Pantglas Primary.

The memorial which now occupies the site of the school and the haunting graves of the victims of the disaster, which are only a stones throw away; act as a permanent reminder of a tragedy that should never have happened; and as we approach the 50th anniversary it is as important as ever to remember that cruel theft of innocence from the people of Aberfan.

The pits have now all but disappeared from the South Wales valleys, and Aberfan / Merthyr Vale act as commuter villages for those working in Merthyr and Cardiff; as there is very little employment or industry left in the community except for a leisure centre, which was paid for with some of the money kindly donated by people from around the world; and a few shops and pubs.

What I hope will never be taken away from the valleys is the strong sense of community; and even if the memories of this disaster are still painful, it is also important to remember with pride the manner in which everyone pulled together to support and care for those who were left behind.

In loving memory of the 144 victims of Aberfan, and heartfelt sympathy to all those that were affected by the disaster.