Don’t test EPL stars before key workers: Neil Humphreys
Football must accept its place in pecking order and wait
When it comes to Covid-19, death does discriminate. Globally, the virus kills more poor people, who tend to be sicker. And it kills sicker people, who tend to be poorer.
Governments continue to tiptoe around the elephant in the ICU (intensive care unit), but it's an awkward problem for the English Premier League, too.
You see, the EPL is not poor, not at the moment, anyway. But those TV dollars are slipping away as long as the game remains postponed. The clock is ticking.
And yet, the EPL remains rich enough to privately source the testing kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to keep the industry comparatively safe.
It's a key aspect of Project Restart; the ludicrously optimistic plan to resume a physical sport with physical distancing measures, despite the United Kingdom having a Covid-19 death toll of over 28,000 - among the highest in the world.
Even now, typing such a sentence feels surreal, insensitive and inhumane, as if the EPL is detached from its country, society and death toll. But the show must go on, at some point, with the appropriate testing and PPE at every venue.
And yet, that's the key point being glossed over, as if saying it quickly will deny empathetic souls a chance to join the dots. Those dots being regularly tested footballers on one side and sporadically tested healthcare workers on the other.
Healthcare workers are still dying in the UK. Bored footballers are kicking toilet rolls around for charity, which is wonderful, but not quite the same thing.
Just because the EPL can be medically equipped to complete the season doesn't mean that it should. The understandable need for TV money cannot supersede the game's sense of morality.
Thankfully, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard popped up in an interview to say what shouldn't need to be said - healthcare staff come before footballers.
Of course, they don't, not in the real world of sporting religions and celebrity cults, but the real world hunkered down a month ago, leaving behind a suspended state of disbelief that turned the established order upside down.
White-collar workers slipped behind their laptops at home, desperately trying to convince deflated egos that they still mattered. While blue-collar grafters took charge to remind us all what really constitutes "essential" work in a crisis.
We swiftly discovered that we didn't need the EPL. We needed medical professionals and their understated courage and expertise.
Lampard said it "would not sit well" with him if his Chelsea staff accessed regular Covid-19 tests while frontline health workers could not do the same.
And they can't, not at present anyway. So the case should be closed. Not a single game or training session can be held until tests are available to those most in need. And those folks are not footballers.
As Lampard pointed out, Chelsea alone would require around 70 to 80 tests. A match, even behind closed doors, would require far more.
Of course, the EPL has something that public healthcare does not. Money. According to The Guardian, the league is ready to invest in Covid-19 testing machines at a cost of £36,000 (S$63,700) each. One machine can test seven employees a day.
Due to the hefty cost involved and small number of tests the machine can do a day, they are not used in public healthcare.
Oh, that's all right then.
Once the testing machines are installed at every EPL training ground and nurses are still dying in care homes, the clubs can at least take comfort in the fact that their privately funded machines were not depriving others of life.
The game already wrestles with the omnipresent "haves-have nots" conundrum and the ever-widening chasm between the average footballer and fan. Imagine the response if the literal dividing line became life and death, like some repugnant hybrid of The Hunger Games and Rollerball.
What a fun, dystopian game that would be.
With two or three private tests a week, EPL footballers and staff get to live. But key workers in transport, education and healthcare take a test whenever one becomes available, throw the dice and pray.
Covid-19 already targets the most disadvantaged in society. There's really no need to amplify that divide by rushing the EPL back to satisfy TV obligations.
Lampard must speak for all of us. Humility has to prevail.
When it comes to testing, there can be no queue jumping. Covid-19 continues to prove George Orwell's theory that some are more equal than others in a crisis. They are called healthcare workers.
The EPL needs to accept its lowly place in the pecking order and wait.