Frank Lampard says he is proud of the way Chelsea responded to the challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic and called on the Premier League and its teams to do their bit to help those further down the English league system.
It was confirmed by prime minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday that the planned returns of fans to stadiums in England, which was due to begin in phases from October 1, have been canceled due to the rise in Covid-19 cases in the United Kingdom.
The Premier League responded by noting its “disappointment” at the decision, arguing that “a code of conduct developed with scientific experts and agreed by the government’s Sports Ground Safety Authority, fans in stadiums will be as safe or even safer than at any other public activity currently permitted”.
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It added that £700 million was lost by top-flight teams last season with the national game hemorrhaging about £100m a month as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc, with predictions over the futures of teams further down the Football League making for grim reading.
During the early stages of the crisis, both Liverpool and Tottenham were criticized for originally stating they would take advantage of the government’s furlough scheme before going back on the decision after a backlash, while Arsenal announced a host of redundancies despite making moves in the transfer market.
Chelsea boss Lampard feels his club has led by example with their own response and expects the Premier League to do its part to ensure English football can navigate its way through unprecedented times.
He said: “Firstly on a personal note and being the manager of this team, this club, the pride I have in how it dealt with the COVID situation, in the beginning, not furloughing staff, or mentioning we would furlough staff then retracting that statement, making the hotel at Chelsea into a hotel for NHS workers to stay in, making considerable donations to charity. I thought the club covered itself very well.
“In terms of football itself and the sport, I think it’s important the Premier League as a collective looks at supporting the EFL and the leagues below and grassroots football, absolutely, because that’s the base of why we’re all here. “I managed in the Championship and know the difficulties because I was very close to [Derby County owner] Mel Morris and I understand the difficulties clubs are having.
“I can’t go too political because I don’t know enough about the numbers but I do think clubs in the Premier League and the Premier League themselves have a heart and understand that. I’m sure as we move forward they’ll make positive moves on that front.”
Chelsea is preparing to host Barnsley in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday, a match that will take place just a day after Tottenham’s trip to Leyton Orient was canceled after several players from the League Two club tested positive for Covid-19.
Teams in the EFL this season do not have to conduct mandatory coronavirus tests and it was put to Lampard – who confirmed Chelsea had paid for Barnsley’s contingent to be tested – that inter-league competitions may be untenable this season.
“The bigger political question is a difficult one because of the circumstances and, again, I don’t know the numbers,” he replied. “But if you want to isolate it to football and you want to talk about how teams in the Premier League can help clubs lower down in the leagues, we have paid for the tests for Barnsley, we’re awaiting the results on that, we hope it’s a positive answer in terms of negative results.
“I think it’s a sign of clubs in the Premier League think it’s the right thing to do. Competitions like the Carabao Cup are important because of where they are in the chain of football and I think it’s right what we’ve done. It seems most Premier League clubs are doing.”