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Opinion: Ban on Grassroots Football Was Imperative

Written by  Noah Mehmeti

Friday the 13th lived up to its name as news broke that the Scottish FA had decided to indefinitely suspend all football matches, ranging from the Scottish Premier League down to non-professional and grassroots football, due to the recent Coronavirus outbreak.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster stated that it was "neither realistic nor possible" to resume with matches. The move will undoubtedly have serious knock-on effects on the world of football - notably the delay, or perhaps the cancellation, of the English Premier League that could prevent Liverpool from lifting their first league title in 30 years, as well as all the potential European qualifications, relegations and promotions that would occur in leagues across Europe.

Unlike England, Scotland has decided that this suspension will cover even youth football, which begs the question, how will young footballers be affected, and is this the right thing to do?

The implications of delaying, or cancelling, seasons and tournaments will hit professional leagues harder as there is a greater financial impact, but this is not an issue limited to the pro leagues.

Leagues and cups will potentially be left unfinished, taking away the opportunity for young players to experience the thrill of a cup final or the excitement of a league title run-in.

Although there is a low risk of a child being severely affected, the threat Coronavirus poses cannot be undermined, and the Scottish FA and government should be commended for putting in measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

Originally, the government advised citizens to cancel all mass gatherings of over 500 people to prevent the spread. If this is applied to youth football, one may argue that rarely will a youth game have such a large crowd and therefore matches should not be stopped.

However, as scientists are finding out more information about the virus and how easily it spreads, seeing that people may carry the virus without showing symptoms, it is a rational idea to cancel all public events, especially ones such as football where all participants come in close physical contact with each other, making it a hotspot for the virus to spread.

Even if young players come out relatively unscathed after catching the virus, the few days they carry it without knowing could do a greater damage to others. They may come in contact with elder family members who are at a much higher risk from dying from the virus, or even their own friends or teammates who have a respiratory issue such as asthma, putting them at a greater risk.

This is why the SFA have decided that such action must be taken to minimise the risk of Coronavirus spreading and in doing so saving as many lives as possible.

Although the decision to suspend all matches in Scotland is a logical one, the effects the suspension will inevitably have should not be overlooked.

The Scottish FA has not set a date for matches to return, and considering experts reckon that it could take 10-14 weeks for the virus to hit its peak in the UK, a possible return date is likely to be a few months down the line.

A long lay-off from football will unquestionably stunt the progress of youngsters around the nation, given that no matches will almost certainly lead to no training sessions, too.

Months’ worth of hard-work and practice will have to be sacrificed for the health of the nation. As upsetting this may be to players and coaches, it is a necessary compromise to ensure that virus is dealt with and then we may return to normality.

This will indeed prove to be disruptive and discouraging to players and fans alike, but it is something that must be done for the greater good of the people.

Last modified on Wednesday, 18 March 2020 11:30
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