News   |    July 21st, 2021


It seems only yesterday we were all told there would not be a second national lockdown under any circumstances and when Sir Keir Starmer called for this to happen two weeks ago, he was publicly belittled by the Prime Minister.

As someone who has had cause to use the NHS on a number of occasions in recent years, nobody can argue how vital it is we protect them but constant changes of direction, after being adamant there won’t be, do nothing to help the situation and the leaking of the decision by one or more senior ministers caused political mayhem over the weekend.

Apart from confirming that the Premier League and EFL match fixtures will continue during the initial one-month lockdown period little other football information was given and I am sure more detail will emerge in the coming days. I am expecting that all non-league, academy and grass roots football will be stopped immediately.

If the Premier League don’t reverse their decision to charge £14.95 for selected pay per view matches, then the Government should intervene and force them to scrap a concept that is doing immense harm to the image of the game. Additionally, if my circle of friends is a barometer, it is putting so many fans off the game and the values it should represent in these difficult times. Morally we have a situation where supporters are either losing their jobs or facing reduced income and it sends out all the wrong messages to ask them to pay yet more money over and above their monthly TV subscriptions, cost of season tickets etc. For the next month, at least, football should show a moral lead.

It was sad to see that another 1966 World Cup winner in Nobby Stiles had passed away aged 78 last week following the loss of Jackie Charlton earlier this year. It was also sad to hear how the family felt that Nobby had been abandoned by football. Stiles played in every match in that 1966 World Cup and the story has often been told that the Football Association put pressure on Sir Alf Ramsey to drop him after the group match against France because his tackling was too fierce!! Eusebio was probably the best individual player at that time, but he didn’t get a kick in the semi-final against Portugal (apart from the penalty kick he converted), a game England won 2-1 to reach the final.

This all came in the same week there was confirmation that Sir Bobby Charlton is suffering from dementia. Sir Bobby and David Gill looked after away directors at matches at Old Trafford and so I had the privilege of meeting Sir Bobby at a number of matches and he was always so welcoming and friendly. He never tired of telling me that he made his debut against Charlton at Old Trafford in 1956 and scored twice. It is rare that many fans take much notice of the opposition manager but in April 1975 Charlton needed to beat Preston to secure promotion (which they did 3-1) and Sir Bobby was the Preston manager. As he made his way to the dugout the home crowd give him a standing ovation which says everything about the man.

Sir Bobby is a genuine sporting legend and I wish him well. I hope that one day a cure can be found for this terrible illness.

Image Credit: Getty Images.

Peter Varney - Chairman, Integral Sports Management

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