The shadow sports minister, Alison McGovern, has called for public scrutiny of the Premier League’s Project Restart plan to help give confidence to athletes and the public alike.
The MP for Wirral South has written to her opposite number, Nigel Huddleston, with 20 questions regarding top-flight football’s mooted return. Central to her concerns are the medical protocols which the league submittedto the government this week for consideration.
“People want football back,” McGovern said. “But we need to have confidence that we’re doing it in a way that supports the health of athletes and supports broader public-health objectives.”
Although the government must give final approval to any plan for a resumption of play, with matches still targeted for the middle of June, the process for these decisions is expected to be conducted in private. An increasing number of Premier League players, meanwhile, recently including Raheem Sterling, Danny Rose and Todd Cantwell, have spoken publicly of their concerns over safety,
McGovern has called for any government advice on resumption to be published in the House of Commons library and debated at the DCMS select committee. “I think that most people accept that in a well-functioning democracy that is what you do,” she told the Guardian. “You put yourself up for scrutiny.
“I don’t think that the government can say to any sporting body, least of all the Premier League: ‘This is up to you.’ I don’t think they can say that because nobody in any governing body or any sports club anywhere across the United Kingdom is going to have access to the kind of medical and scientific expertise that the government does.
“Will they therefore accept that only they can open the gateway, and that we should therefore have transparency of that advice? They should put that advice in the library of the House of Commons so that people can see it.”
McGovern says that consensus is necessary not only between the league and government but also with the general public if the game is to return successfully.
“People’s lives come first,” she said. “In general I think most football people are thinking about the health aspect of this. I know that people want football back, personally speaking I want to go and kick a ball about with my friends; I know that would be good for my mental health. But the health of the nation comes first. I don’t know anyone in football who disagrees with that.
“Dominic Raab [the foreign secretary] said that he wanted the Premier League to restart to ‘lift the spirits of the nation’. Morale is important but having a proper public-health strategy around sport is much more important. If we end up with football starting and having to stop I think that will be even worse. Let’s get this right.”