Is Project Restart Already Void?

Is Project Restart Already Void?

Before the problems with Project Restart are placed under the microscope, let’s make something clear: this is one writer who actually wants to see this season completed. While nothing would humour me more than watching Liverpool being denied a title due to a void campaign, the reality is football needs to come back.

This opinion will be immediately met with disdain. For many, the suggestion sport returns before coronavirus has been eradicated is preposterous. They see it as the money in football coming before the nation’s health.

There are valid points in such arguments against the resumption of the Premier League. But with any risk, the handling of it is played off against the side effects of continued suppression. There has to be a point where the advantages of resuming football – or sport in general – outweighs the potential negatives.

Addressing the financial elephant in the room. Yes, there should be enough money in the game to survive such a setback. FIFA has a billion in its rainy day fund. But sport is business and businesses can be self-serving. Not all clubs will make it through the other side if the delay continues for too long.

Resuming the top flight could have a knock-on effect when it comes to redistributing wealth to the lower leagues. It’s easier to make the rich more benevolent when it’s a condition of them making money again.

A return of televised games would also help pacify a restless nation. With each passing day, the chances of people sticking to the stay at home guidelines diminishes. If they made games free-to-air – say, a couple each day as they chew through the outstanding games in the pile – it will subdue a large portion of the nation.

To make it work safely – and this is where the Premier League cannot get it wrong – it would be ideal to have a single location for all teams and support staff. Hosting all games in a closed village, with everyone tested going in and remaining in complete isolation from the outside world. It’d be a World Cup style tournament with Premier League and FA Cup games.

Integrity

The problem with this idea is teams will say playing at neutral venues calls into question the integrity of the competition. It is a valid point. Why should a club like Watford face relegation because they lost home advantage? The argument it’s the same for everyone is weakened by the fact it hasn’t been the same throughout the entirety of the competition.

Even if officials agreed to allow teams to play behind closed doors at their usual stadium, the question of integrity still stands. The International Football Association Board (IFAB) has amended the rule on the number of permitted substitutions for competitions that will be completed within this calendar year.

Being able to make five subs instead of three puts a different take on the game. Those with bigger squads will clearly benefit and it’s a major rule change that only affects a part of the season. All the rules have to be the same from start to finish. The Premier League do not need to adopt this rule, but you can bet they will.

IFAB has also stated VAR can be turned off for the resumption of competitions. It’s the only coronavirus death that’s worth celebrating but further evidence that the proposed returning Premier League will be too far away from the competition that began last August.

There’s also the problem of player contracts. The squads submitted for the Premier League will become invalidated if players move upon expiration of their contract. A little more of that remaining integrity slips away.

So it seems there are two clear choices:

Bring back football, behind closed doors but using existing grounds, keep VAR (never thought I’d type that), and ignore IFAB rule changes.

Or,

Void the season as it can’t be completed in a manner that maintains the competition’s consistency and sporting integrity.

No clubs should be relegated, no titles handed out. Champions League places determined by average-points-per-game to calculate remaining fixtures. Although, there’s surely a UEFA coefficient system that can be used to ensure clubs like Leicester miss out but Arsenal and Manchester United can return.

However they wrap up this season (or don’t), some forward-thinking needs to occur before a new campaign begins. There’s a chance coronavirus could have a winter revival. The next Premier League season needs to be set up in a way it can deal with another lockdown without its integrity being called into question.

The country needs the distraction of sport but it needs competitions to be safe, sustainable and authentic.

May Writing Sprint 1: Prompts

May Writing Sprint 1: Prompts

May’s first two-hour writing sprint comes by the way of five words:

Artillery. Blame. Run. Bake. Abolition.

A quote from Shirley Jackson’s Photo The Haunting of Hill House and a photo by wu yi on Unsplash.

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Post in the comments, on your blog and link back here or over at Mel Cusick-Jones‘s site or the Twitter thread.

Best of luck and enjoy the Bank Holiday.

The Treetops

The Treetops

This week’s two-hour writing sprint prompts came bundled together in this image:

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This week’s rules were the same: two-hour limit, use the words, image and quote as inspiration. Extra kudos for using all five words in your piece. Post your efforts or a link to them in the comments here, Aside From Writing or on the Twitter thread.

Two clearly formed ideas emerged after a day. One was a science fiction thriller that would have needed too much backstory for it to work under the time restraint.

The second option is what appears below. It also would have benefitted from a little more time but time isn’t always what we think it is…

The Treetops

The sense of himself is confirmed in the same way it is when water presses down on the body. He can feel his essence. The water is existence itself. He bobs to the surface in his chair. His legs are motioning the device back and forth. A rocking chair. The seat for an old man. Surely not his seat. It was only last week he was hiking in redwood country.

That was with his son…

Who died five years ago in a motorcycle accident.

He frowns. It is a regular action nowadays. A default position. Before he resided in this chair, his wrinkles were laughter lines. Now his face is moulded from worry and confusion.

His mind wanders back to those trees, the house by the lake. It had been a wonderful end to summer. Perhaps it wasn’t last week, more like a year . . . or something. He frowns again. What eases the frown is remembering the forest below those tall trees. The ground was an unnatural red. As if someone has been overzealous with spray paint. The small pools of water that had collected contained a darker tinge than one would expect.

His son dared him to climb a tree. It was a silly, offhand remark. They both had been marvelling at their immense height. It wasn’t possible to see the tops. The point at which they broke into an open skyline remained a mystery. There was more chance of seeing the peak of the Empire State Building from its foyer.

His son – Jake, or John his brother? – did his usual trick of egging him on then looking aghast when he took the bait. The intention wasn’t really there when he stepped into the first nook which acted as a ledge. This type of tree didn’t lend itself to human ascent. The rock climbing he’d done as a boy kicked in, he sprang a few feet from the base. It became second nature, using upward momentum to find the perfect spot. By going again without a pause, another ledge was found. And so on.

A greedy branch snagged a shirt sleeve. He remembers now the annoyance of tearing new clothes for such a silly dare. It was a good, solid chequered shirt. The sort he’d planned to wear on evenings after this trip. Now it was ruined.

It had been ruined.

He’d looked to the sky to find only a red ceiling. The tip always out of sight. The answer to the sway of their questions denied. Jake or John saw how bothered he was with the tear. He went red-faced and silent for ten minutes.

He rocks the chair harder. He doesn’t remember seeing Jake in quite some time.

Since the bike accident.

There is a cold cup of tea on the side-table. He knows it is cold without taking a sip. They are always cold. Little fragments, reminders of how things should be and how they are. He will sip it, he sees this clearly now. He will sip it either a few minutes from now or perhaps an hour. But he will sip it. And when he sips from the small dainty cup, he will blast himself for forgetting to drink it sooner.

He sees that this future memory will lack the present clarity in which it appears.

Like stepping from that dense red forest onto a placid lake, he sees how his memories are too close, too all at once. Immediacy which creates only chaos.

His eyes focus on the room in front, to some knowledge of now. The desire to avoid the drop back into that forest. Its aimless trees walked with strangers, become fraught with desperation. His wife had been the religious one, he now wonders what sin he committed for this type of punishment. He tries to picture the last time he saw her face.

It was on the ski slopes the second day of their honeymoon. They always joked that’s where they made Jake . . . and it was all downhill after that. Downhill . . .  on them slopes .   . . downhill . . . parenthood. It was an old one but they never tired of it.

He looks at the cup of tea. He is frowning again. That couldn’t have been the last time he saw her. He thinks of the red trees. The tops he never saw. Trying to reorder his memories is like trying to see the top of those trees.

No matter how high he climbs in his mind’s eye, they are always out of reach. The sky eludes him, until he forgets why he is on a tree in the first place.

His hand picks up the cup and saucer. They chatter together like teeth on a cold morning. He’ll need to buy a hat for when the winter sets in, baby Jake will need one too. He’ll be in school soon. Not really a baby anymore.

Not really a baby.

He takes a gulp from the cup to slake a forgotten thirst.

It is unexpectedly cold.

It reminds him of the sake he drank in Japan; he didn’t like that either. It was their first holiday after Jake had joined university. They spent as much time getting to know one another in the bedroom as they had on their honeymoon. It feels like only last week they’d been snapping photos of Osaka Castle. Snapping away like Japanese tourists, Julie had said. He caught himself wondering if his wife was being mildly racist. How that sort of consideration was her usual remit.

It is important to set a good example when raising a child.

He puts the cup and saucer down. His slippered feet push through the rug. The red cotton falling away like leaves in that forest, the one he walked in with . . . John. He looks up to the treetops, seeing them grow ever taller.

The sky forever out of reach.