(Reuters) – The Premier League should not restart the season until the number of new novel coronavirus cases has dropped significantly as lives are at risk, Newcastle United defender Danny Rose said on Monday.
Soccer Football – Premier League – Southampton v Newcastle United – St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton, Britain – March 7, 2020 Newcastle United’s Danny Rose during the warm up before the match REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Premier League clubs have been in discussions to finish the season, which has nine rounds remaining, and the possibility of a restart next month was given a boost when the government said elite sport could return after June 1.
“The government’s saying ‘bring football back because it’s going to boost the nation’s morale’,” Rose, 29, said on an Instagram live video, adding he did not care about the country’s morale more than his own health.
“People’s lives are at risk. Football shouldn’t even be spoken about until the numbers have dropped massively … I listened to the announcement yesterday, no football until June 1 or something, I don’t even pay attention to any of that.”
Britain has recorded more than 223,000 cases and over 32,000 deaths from the coronavirus – the highest number in Europe.
The Professional Footballers Association’s deputy chief Bobby Barnes said black players were concerned about the restart after a British government study said black people are nearly twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than whites.
“I think I’m getting tested on Friday, so we’ll just have to wait and see,” Rose, who is on loan from Tottenham Hotspur until the end of the season, added.
“I’m sad that people are getting sick and being affected. Football should be the last of things that need to be sorted.”
Discussions continue between the Premier League and the government about the details of how a resumed season would be carried out, with clubs hoping they can avoid playing at neutral venues.
Last week, clubs were told any return to complete the season would have to be with games played behind closed doors and at neutral venues – to limit the risk of supporters turning up outside grounds.
But that idea had been rejected by some of the clubs facing the threat of relegation, such as Watford and Brighton & Hove Albion, who expressed concern about the fairness of playing games at neutral venues.
The league has to give European soccer’s governing body UEFA details of their plans by May 25.
Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Robert Birsel