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The return of football in Europe: reflections for Belize

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Posted: Monday, June 22, 2020. 4:10 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Some of the best-known and most famous football leagues in the world made their low-key returns in the last week or so.

England’s Premier League resumed last Wednesday, staggering out matches in empty stadia. Germany’s Bundesliga was first to return a few weeks ago, and Spain and Italy footballers are also back on the pitch as well.

The leagues all had to contend with individuals demanding the seasons be ‘null and void’ due to COVID-19 concerns and some players have tested positive for COVID-19 since.

But by and large, games are played without fans (artificial crowd noise and even plastic figures in the stands substituting), and in the case of the Premier League, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has agreed to televise several matches live for the first time in the league’s history. The BBC has not televised a top-flight match in England since 1988; Sky Sports, a satellite service, currently has primary rights.

Most were sad not to be in the stands and enjoy other footballing traditions, and BBC Sport notes that just three of eighteen games played through Saturday in the Premier League and Championship (the division below), resulted in home wins.

While the gulf between the Premier League of England and that of Belize, which is semi-professional, is vast, what would the latter look like when it eventually returns?

Football Federation of Belize General Secretary Earl Jones told us last week, “The Government has to give us all the clearance; FIFA has to approve our guidelines, our protocols on the way forward – that has to synchronize with FIFA/CONCACAF before we can move forward…”

Jones added that “there is a tremendous cost to start again.”

As for fans returning, Jones said he doesn’t see “winning the confidence of fans” back to the stadium, but an eventual return would likely include taking fans’ temperatures at the gate and enforcing social distancing under tents and in the stands – costs each club and association must take on.

The PLB has a vote in the FFB but is separately run. The projected timeline of July for the return of the Premier League and August for FFB-related competitions is under further review.

Verdes F.C. of Cayo is nominally defending champions, as they won the Opening Season last year and were leading the Closing Season when it was stopped in March. They hold Belize’s only slot in the CONCACAF League, subsidiary to the CONCACAF Champions League.

 

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