In an open letter to supporters that was published this morning on Ipswich Town’s official website, the Chairman of the EFL Rick Parry explained that some degree of normality will shortly return to the game but will it? I cannot imagine seeing full football stadiums any time soon, and his optimistic message to the football masses sends out mixed messages.
On the one hand, he is upbeat about the prospects of returning to the ‘good old days’ and then reminds us that ‘this pandemic is arguably the most challenging issue to have affected football since the League was founded 132 years ago.’
It is a long and rather meandering address, which although touching on the issues that impact upon every football fan, lacks in my view any sort of clarity. I suppose this is partly understandable, as nobody really knows what the future holds now that COVID-19 has gripped the world to such devastating effect.
I am sure some of the casualties of this pandemic will be Ipswich supporters. They may not attend regularly but once a Blue always a Blue, and any loss to anyone, anywhere, brings with it a profound sense of despair. In the last moments of a love one’s life how cruel it must be that family members can not be a part of it. Distances between us can never truly be bridged with Ipads or video transmissions. Funerals too have become a much more private affair than before, and not even the medical hierarchy know when normal life will resume.
Parry was adamant however that this season must be completed – even if it goes on behind closed doors. ‘With or without spectators, delivering a successful conclusion to the 2019/20 season remains our goal to ensure the integrity of our competitions.’ I think playing to packed stadiums again might not occur for many years to come. Even the World Cup in Qatar in 2022 must now be under threat.
I don’t wish to sound flippant but if this season does finally resume then perhaps for Ipswich, playing with no spectators, might just help our cause. Our form at Portman Road is worse than on our travels and one element that may have influenced things is stage fright! When the place is rocking its easy to play well but when the mood swings and supporters get on the player’s backs it can be an intimidating place to play. Younger players would probably feel this most.
And in the light of all this doom and gloom, the letter confirmed that not being able to enter the ground will not deprive supporters of football entirely. ‘ Plans are continuing to be worked up for all games to be broadcast either via our broadcast partners, iFollow or equivalent Club streaming services.’
This is what I had suggested earlier and it is familiar territory to me. I have lived here in the Netherlands for more than 30 years and that means I rely on ifollow to see the Blues in action week in and week out. The service is very good and is accompanied by excellent commentary from Brenner Woolley and Mick Mills from Radio Suffolk. Ideally having a season ticket at Portman Road would be my preferred choice but this is the next best thing.