The Covid-19 virus is sweeping across the globe. Being easily transferable, mass gatherings are being winked out as easily as a lamplight.
And the Premier League is no different.
As I write, our Head Coach has declared that he has the virus. Thus, anyone in direct contact with Arteta – the majority of the squad, the staff and those at Hale End – will also undergo self-isolation.
We are not the only club with affected players and coaching staff. Both Leicester and Chelsea have stated that the virus has reached their respective camps. As things stand, the bout of impending weekend fixtures look destined to be cancelled.
This is only the start though.
The NBA season, Pro14 Rugby season, F1 season-opening Grand Prix, golf, tennis and many more have all decided to either postpone the season or play behind closed doors.
It does give us some form of perspective for the Premier League, however. It shows us how precarious the scheduling is, how tightly packed our matches are and the slim margin for error.
If we cancel two or three match weekends, we also have to factor in the remaining FA Cup matches, the Champions League, the Europa League too. This will all have to be squeezed into a frame of time normally reserved for recuperation for players and international squads preparation for the upcoming Euro 2020 tournament – another event that looks decidedly dicey.
Playing games behind closed doors is an option no one wants to consider.
The possible domino effect could ripple outwards for quite some distance, affecting next season and beyond. At present, coaches and clubs already bemoan the sandwiching of games into miniscule timeframes. In order to clear this match clutter miasma up, this will get worse before it gets better.
From Euro2020 most likely being delayed for a month or until 2021, you then get the Premier League delaying next season. This in turn will affect all domestic and European trophies too, not to mention our European league brethren who are currently shut down until further notice.
There seems to be no alternative but to postpone these matches for a period of around 3-4 weeks. According to medical reports, the virus on these shores has still not reached its peak so a huge pool of 50-60,000 in one place is not exactly common sense.
This will get worse before it gets better and it is now time for the bureaucrats of the Premier League and the FA to start earning their corn. They should already have had crisis plans in place but they now need to ensure that damage is limited and our players are not forced to play beyond their means. That means a close watch on fixture burnout and fitness being compromised in aid of fulfilling TV schedules.
We can only watch on as we wait for the dust to settle, but right now we are watching the tornado whip its way toward us and we have no way of swerving it.