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Fans are sick of deceit and the worst thing that could happen is game’s return based on lies – Brian Reade


Some football fans are stupid, but then so are some stamp collectors and yacht enthusiasts.

Most though are not, so they know when they are being lied to. And, in the two months since a ball has been kicked, they’ve been fed more spin and deceit than a North Korean family watching the teatime news.

With a few rare exceptions, nobody at club, league or ­government level has been straight with the lifeblood of the game about why football needs to return next month.

Which is why many fans are becoming cynical and ­disillusioned. Treat someone like a fool and they begin to wonder what they ever saw in you.

They know what is ­currently happening in the Premier League is a face-off about profit and risk, with those at the bottom wanting to eliminate the latter to ­maximise the former.

A Manchester United fan holds up a Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scarf in the stands

They know that’s how the football business works, but don’t like being lied to about it. Owners who fear relegation talking about ­voiding the ­season or ­scrapping neutral venues ­because they distort competition is insulting.

Especially after it emerged they would agree to play again in a heartbeat if relegation was off the table.

We know the clubs who can’t be relegated want the league resumed to ensure they don’t lose any TV money. That Liverpool want to win the title on the pitch and ­Sheffield United and Wolves want a shot at grabbing a Champions League place.

It’s obvious the Premier League isn’t wrestling with the morality of cutting dead the season, but with the economic and legal repercussions of doing so. Just as it’s clear the FA wants the restart because they’re looking at a £75million hit due to Wembley being closed for big events and would love to get some games played there.

Especially with the ­mouth-watering prospect of Chelsea, Manchester City, ­Arsenal and Manchester United making the FA Cup semi-finals, giving them a golden chance to re-establish the reputation of the FA Cup.

There is uncertainty surrounding the return of the Premier League

There’s no need to hide ­behind the abstract notion of ‘sporting integrity’. Just be honest. People prefer it to ­deception.

Which is why many of us reached for sick bags when Dominic Raab told my ­colleague Andy Dunn (above) that the Government want to see the Premier League back to “lift the nation’s ­spirits”. No, they don’t. That soundbite was as insincere as Cabinet ­members hailing the NHS staff our new national heroes, despite voting down a decent pay rise for them three years ago.

Raab saying he wants a speedy Premier League return, hours after the UK recorded more coronavirus deaths than any other country in Europe, was a cynical, headline-­grabbing distraction from his Government’s failures.

As was Health Secretary Matt Hancock calling for ­Premier League players to take pay cuts when neither he, his rich chums, or party ­donors were contemplating it.

There are a few people out there speaking hard truths. Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish says that if the Premier League is not up and running again by August, many clubs will suffer the economic ­freefall currently being felt by airlines.

Liverpool are on the brink of winning the Premier League title

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And with the Prem handing £3.3billion to the Treasury every year, plus £400m to the English Football League (EFL), that will hurt more than their own clubs.

The EFL’s Rick Parry points out that unless games are ­resumed, his clubs will face a collective black hole of £200m by September, and many will go bankrupt before then.

They are the straight facts we want to hear, so an ­informed decision can be made about whether it’s worth trying to finish the season.

Most fans, even of clubs desperate for a return, accept there are wider questions about safety, ethics and logistics that need to be answered before a ball is kicked.

With tens of thousands killed by this pandemic, the worst thing that could happen to football is if it ­returned, or failed to, on a lie.

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