FRIDAY'S BIG STORIES
Relegate them now
Dear Arsenal and Crystal Palace,
Emotional Saka welcomed back to Arsenal with wall of supportive letters
Amid the disastrous news landscape, football is the one thing we cling to. They can take our tickets. They can take our atmosphere. They can take our celebrations. But they can’t take our football.
Or that’s what we thought. But after your game last night, we’re no longer sure. Hoards of us surrendered our Thursday evenings to watch you, well, do precisely nothing for 93 minutes. We were assured that ‘Arsenal were finally back’, that it was impossible for David Luiz to contain Wilfried Zaha. We were deceived.
On behalf of fans across the globe, we sincerely hope you are both relegated in May.
Reluctant best wishes,
P.S. Your match was so bad, you almost made Jamie Redknapp look like a good singer. Almost.
It's the footballers' fault
We didn’t get a chance to see the new directive in action last night, thanks again Arsenal and Palace, but players have once more been urged to avoid hugging when celebrating.
“Some of the scenes we have seen have been brainless and give out an awful message,” bleated Julian Knight, the chair of the digital, culture, media and sport committee. On an unrelated note, he’s a Conservative MP complicit in one of the globe’s most sorry handling of the pandemic. But yes, Julian, the footballers are brainless.
The problem with allowing elite football during a pandemic is that it doesn't fit with everything else. If it was a non-contact sport, like snooker, then it absolutely makes sense to push for eternal social distancing. But football is impossible without close contact (insert your own joke about Arsenal trying it with Palace's defenders last night).
Players are allowed to grapple in the penalty area, contest a 50-50, scream in the referee's face. But a celebration? You've gone too far. No one is watching football and going, ‘Phil Foden just hugged Kevin De Bruyne so I’m going to go round and hug everyone’. And if they are? Well, nothing can save them.
If you don’t think football should continue in a pandemic, that’s an entirely valid opinion. But wanting football to continue but without celebrations is just silly.
We're all off to Baku
Stick or twist? That’s the choice facing thousands of supporters, who have 11 days to decide whether to keep their Euro 2020 tickets for the country-hopping extravaganza. So what’s the catch?
Well, fans won’t be allowed a refund if the matches go ahead with fans – even if they move the game to a DIFFERENT COUNTRY. That’s right. You could have a ticket to England v Scotland at Wembley, 500 metres down the road, but if it’s moved to Baku due to the coronavirus pandemic… no refund.
“In the event of the postponement of the match before kick-off for a reason of Force Majeure, the ticket will be valid for the rearranged playing of the match. The applicant will not be entitled to a refund of the tickets if they are unable to attend the rearranged playing of the match.”
Force Majeure has been defined as “any event affecting Euro 2020 arising from or attributable to acts, events, omissions or accidents which are beyond the reasonable control of UEFA and/or the relevant host association”, with The Athletic saying that it includes fixtures being bumped around as a result of a pandemic. Helpfully, UEFA won't announce their full plans for the tournament until March, leaving ticket-holding fans with a horrible dilemma.
It’s not all bad news though. UEFA have kindly offered a full refund if the match is played behind closed doors. Thanks for clarifying that one, Mr Ceferin.
IN THE CHANNELS
We’re ashamed that we’ve never seen this before, which means there’s a chance that applies to you too. An absolute masterpiece. Take it away Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.
Anything pre-virus is retro these days so let’s celebrate Eric Dier’s 27th birthday with a look back at his maddest moment.
A quiet day. Fortunately for you, Ronnie O'Sullivan is playing John Higgins in the Masters quarter-finals, live on Eurosport 1 and this very website from 18:45.
Andi Thomas is here on Monday with full details on Manchester United's open-top bus parade after their 1-0 win at Anfield
Chelsea make improved offer in 'big push' for Lukaku, Kane latest, Arsenal step up Martinez bid
Partey to have scan after injury against Chelsea