Neil Humphreys: EPL and England exist like two parallel universes
As death tolls remain high in UK, it's uncertain if the season will be completed
The English Premier League is a key character in the tale of two Englands.
Its fate will depend entirely upon which England prevails.
Right now, there is the sunny England of packed beaches, heaving tube trains and smiley footballers in training. Project Restart loves this England.
And then there is the England of stubbornly persistent infection rates, a death toll that will not decline fast enough and footballers testing positive for Covid-19.
Project Restart is terrified of this England.
But they both exist, simultaneously, like two parallel universes compressed into one relatively small island.
Barring a rapid second wave of infections, the EPL should resume on June 17. Whether the remaining games will be completed by July 26 remains to be seen. At this stage, the odds are about the same as West Ham United's chances of staying up, almost impossible to predict.
Last night, EPL clubs decided to push back a vote on a rule change to decide what happens in the event of a curtailment until if or when they face that problem.
There has been no agreement as to how final places should be decided - including relegation spots - in the event of the 2019-2020 season having to be abandoned.
A points-per-game formula is likely to be the most practical way of determining the final standings in the event of an incomplete season.
On the same day that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson championed his coronavirus "success", the UK's death toll surpassed the combined total of 27 European Union countries.
With a population of 66 million, the UK's daily toll of Covid-19 deaths was 359. With a combined population of 450 million, the EU recorded 314 deaths.
Also on the same day, an unnamed Tottenham Hotspur footballer tested positive for the coronavirus, which was not quite the reassuring stamp of approval that Project Restart sought at this juncture.
There was only one positive test in the EPL's fifth round of screening, which included 1,197 players and staff from the 20 clubs.
But the UK, like Singapore, eased lockdown restrictions only this week. A more accurate barometer for Covid-19's presence within the community will come in a week or so - just as the season resumes.
And that may be the moment when the two Englands collide.
Looking on from Singapore, where mask wearing is still mandatory in all public places despite a low death toll, the conflicting images from the UK can be as confusing as they are bewildering.
In one England, there is Harry Kane, all shiny and sinewy, beaming for the club photographer as he steps off the Tottenham training pitch. And then there is Virgil van Dijk giving a thumbs-up after a sweaty workout.
Like every EPL squad, they are snugly cocooned in their sanitised medical zones, with private Covid-19 tests just a swab away.
They could not be in a safer environment. Project Restart has addressed every conceivable risk as quickly as possible. (It’s remarkable how the prospect of losing hundreds of millions of dollars can focus the mind).
But, in the other England, uncertainty reigns.
The UK still has the second highest death toll in the world. Leading scientists believe cases will remain steady until September. And thousands of primary schools have rejected the official call to resume classes.
What death toll numbers are the EPL prepared to accommodate before things start to get a bit awkward?
If, say, around 300 people are still dying every day – many of whom are more likely to be from black and Asian backgrounds – when Troy Deeney is running the channels for Watford, would that be OK?
Perhaps if the death toll drops to 100, then all remaining competitions can resume, but if the number exceeds 400, maybe drop the FA Cup?
What is the acceptable number between EPL dollars and daily deaths?
The EPL is sold to the world, but there must be a moral obligation, surely, to stop the season if too many people continue to die between fixtures.
Despite its shaky beginnings, Project Restart has exceeded expectations and provided a workable roadmap to finish the season as quickly – and as safely – as possible. But Covid-19 still controls the timetable.
The season will resume. Whether it finishes or not will depend on the impact of a potential second wave and our collective conscience.
Just how many deaths will be too many to enjoy guilt-free football? We are about to find out.