After UCFB’s partner organisation, the National League, announced that it was cancelling the 2019-20 season, Neil Silver, UCFB’s Head of Employability & Enrichment, explains why unfortunately it is simply not safe to complete the domestic football season

Football played such a huge part in my early life that I grew up subscribing to Bill Shankly’s famous view that our national game “isn’t a matter of life and death – it is much more serious than that”. Now, I’m not so sure.

The fact is, whether or not football should resume during the current COVID-19 crisis IS a matter of life and death.

When it came to football, I was always something of a romantic. How could I not be, when I grew up with a season ticket watching Tottenham Hotspur, who were known for their entertaining football. That changed the day Sol Campbell walked out on Spurs and joined our arch-rivals, Arsenal. With so many great options on the table for Campbell at the time, I couldn’t help thinking his decision was based largely on greed, with less focus on loyalty and ambition.

Neil, left, believes football simply cannot continue while the COVID-19 crisis continues.

Sadly, the longer I have been involved in football, the more greed I have seen. There are some great, honest and caring agents in the game, but they fall within a minority, and the amount of money paid to some agents and players nowadays is obscene. If ever a perspective was needed, just look at how hard our NHS heroes are currently working and how much they are receiving in return.

When I first heard that the football authorities were scrambling to try and complete the 2019-20 football season in June and July, I thought that much of their reasoning was based on greed. However, I now accept that is not the sole motive, as there is a need to get as many businesses back up and running before it is too late for them to survive.

The reality is, as the current headlines reflect, it is simply not safe for football to resume until a proven vaccine for the COVID-19 virus is available to all, and that doesn’t look like happening any time soon.

At a Premier League match, it can take as many as 500 support staff behind the scenes to ensure the fixture goes ahead (at lower levels, this figure is closer to 100).

How can that amount of people, plus two club squads, safely gather to play a match? If just one of them is carrying the virus it will be catastrophic. To make matters worse, the respected medical journal, The Lancet, recently claimed that professional footballers could be at a greater risk of suffering from the effects of COVID-19.

I think the authorities know this, and fair play to them for trying to keep the industry alive, but maybe they want the decision to be taken out of their hands. Maybe they want the Government to step in and extend the playing ban, as they have in countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands and France. That will take away any culpability and the threat of legal action from sponsors.

I’m a former national newspaper sports writer, and I still write for one of the national tabloids, so I never thought I would say this, but, let’s face it... it won’t be the end of the world if the current season is cancelled.

One of my closest friends almost died after contracting the COVID-19 virus, and that brought home just how serious the current pandemic is. I’m sorry Mr Shankly, but right now football is not more important than life and death.

Nobody should care if the season is cancelled. We need to care only about how we left it when the next season gets under way.

There are probably two main options for the Premier League to choose from – and bear in mind they need a majority of 14 clubs to vote through any motions.

Paul Barber, chief executive and deputy chairman of Brighton & Hove Albion, has previously said he's unsure about Premier League fixtures being played at neutral venues if the season restarts.

Option one is to finish the season with the league standings as they are. There won’t be any relegations, as that would be like turkeys voting for Christmas. Of course, Shankly’s club Liverpool should be awarded the Premier League title, and I sympathise with all the EFL clubs who will miss out on trophies and promotions, but we need to look at the bigger picture.

Option two is to just cancel the season altogether, in the same way as our friends at the National League have. That means no champions or automatic European places, and the members would have to decide which clubs they propose to UEFA to enter next season’s competitions, plus how the prize money is distributed. My preferred option would be option one.

There are clearly going to be some interesting meetings held behind closed doors, and I know our friends at the National League will be meeting to discuss promotion and relegation issues in the coming weeks.

Great Britain is a nation which loves its football, and rightly so because it creates wonderful memories for us all. However, in 2020 let’s all have the vision to recognise that sport really does need to take a back seat while we focus on something as important as life, and death. Stay safe!