February 6, 2023



The Fiver | The route to glorified kickabouts masquerading as top-flight football | Football

6 min read


If those tasked with getting the Premier League – or at the very least some vaguely recognisable, albeit zombified version of it that might pass muster with broadcasters to whom they are contractually obliged – up and running again were hoping for urgently-needed guidance from the prime minister during his address to the nation on Sunday night, they were left sorely disappointed. In a wide-ranging waffle-salad that left most of the nation totally confused about what exactly they are and are not allowed to do, and with whom they are and aren’t allowed do it, Boris Johnson made no mention whatsoever of professional sport in general or football in particular.

The upshot? Those Premier League chiefs scheduled to meet via conference call on Monday to discuss the return of top-flight football were left none the wiser as to when they might be able to nail down a concrete date for Project Restart, before getting down to the nitty gritty of arguing about where games would be played and who might play in them. Not to mention where best to source the branded Hazmat kit for those forced to risk death for the amusement of those actually interested in watching football stripped of almost all the bells and whistles that make it a pleasurable viewing experience in the first place.

But still, money. Asked for his thoughts about it all on Social Media Disgrace Twitter, Aston Villa defender Tyrone Mings was curious to see what fresh hell the Premier League would unleash. “Let’s see what else they come out with,” he said. “If you believe everything in the press then I’m currently preparing myself to play with a mask, with gloves, for less than 45 minutes each way, whilst quarantining … in Australia.” Subsequently answering accusations that officials from relegation-threatened clubs such as Villa are using Covid-19 as an excuse to try and avoid relegation, due in no small part to the fact that all available evidence suggests that is exactly what they are doing, Mings replied: “In my eyes we either play with relegation, because it’s safe to do so or don’t play because it’s not safe to do so.”

While the high-level squabbling shows no sign of abating any time soon, the Premier League has at least now been sort-of-given the green light to go ahead from 1 June. Moments after The Fiver had finished a completely different version of today’s tea-timely football email – one which in the spirit of self-isolation will now never see the light of day – the government published its “roadmap” out of lockdown. Specifically, a set of directions that – if their roadmap into lockdown was anything to go by – The Fiver hopes has plenty of routes leading to the ICUs of various hospitals.

Step two of this cartographical masterpiece, which cannot begin any earlier than the first day of June, includes “permitting cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact”. It also urges the governing bodies of pertinent organisations to “plan accordingly”. With venal football executives taking their lead from a similarly self-interested Tory leadership whose every move since the start of the current crisis has been a drunken lurch or misstep, the chances of anyone being subjected to glorified kickabouts masquerading as top-flight football any time soon remain uncertain.


“I had never sought any information on him. I swear to God I only did it because I knew that after the book came out, the first questions would be: ‘Where’s this guy now? Are you going to report him? How can you claim to be someone who has the welfare of people as a priority in your working life, and then leave someone like him free on the streets?’ I thought I’d better find out where he was. I asked a friend in the police force to do some digging and I told him why” – Richie Sadlier tells Donald McRae about the day he discovered what had happened to his abuser.

Richie Sadlier.

Richie Sadlier. Photograph: Myles Shelly


Football Weekly is right here, right now.

Football Weekly

Liverpool’s Istanbul miracle and the row in Scotland – Football Weekly


“When you next redesign The Fiver you should consider adopting this font” – R Reisman.

“Regarding Steve Gaw (Fiver letters passim) asking for classic old banners (which The Fiver took to also include placards), it is worth remembering the time that Dvd O’Lry once called Aston Villa fans ‘a fickle mob’ and they responded in the next game” – Noble Francis.

Villa v Fulham in March 2006.

Villa v Fulham in March 2006. Photograph: Getty Images

“This little ditty from a supporter of our (Walsall FC) neighbours a few years back always brings a smile to the face” – Robin Foster.

That ITV Sport branding.

That ITV Sport branding. Photograph: ITV

“My favourite banner at a match is this one, although I can’t decide if the person holding it is Clint Dempsey’s biggest fan or his biggest critic” – Tim Grey.

We’re a glass half-full kind of tea-time email.

We’re a glass half-full kind of tea-time email. Photograph: –

“The New York Times app has a puzzle every day called the Spelling Bee. One is given seven different letters; the goal is to construct as many words as possible, of at least four letters from the given letters only; one may use a letter more than once. Sunday’s were A, B, F, O, P, R, and Y; every word had to have at least one R. I entered ‘parp’ in the app, which was rejected. The app provides an email address to which one can write. I considered doing so, but then considered how the recipient of my message might consider the argument: ‘The Fiver uses the term constantly.’ If the reader had never heard of The Fiver, this would not help my case. If, on the other hand, the reader was familiar with The Fiver, this would utterly doom my chances” – Michael Monroe.

Send your letters to the.boss[email protected] And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Tim Grey.


Bullish La Liga president Javier Tebas is targeting a 12 June restart, albeit behind closed doors. “Now that we are not going to have fans in the stadiums we are going to have some innovative ideas for broadcasting the games,” he cheered. “There’s going to be football every day once La Liga returns.”

Atlético Madrid training earlier, in preparation for Liga. Every. Day.

Atlético Madrid training earlier, in preparation for Liga. Every. Day. Photograph: La Liga/EPA

Bundesliga suits, meanwhile, are adamant the restart of Germany’s top two tiers will go ahead as planned on Saturday, despite Dynamo Dresden’s squad being quarantined for two weeks.

The City Football Group continue to go wild in the aisles, having chucked Belgian second division side Lommel into their trolley like a yeast-starved shopper who’s just seen a batch land on the shelves.

England Women are teaming up with a sports research and nutrition service designed to enhance performance and “truly understand the female athlete”.

And China have included three naturalised players in their national squad for the first time, with Brazilian-born pair Elkeson and Aloisio joined by former Arsenal player Nico Yennaris.


Our profile of Bruno Guimarães, the Brazil international who Juninho Pernambucano convinced to turn down Arsenal, Benfica and Atlético Madrid for Lyon.

European domestic football is officially back, baby, in the Faroe Islands!

To Klaksvik!

To Klaksvik! Photograph: Álvur Haraldsen/The Guardian

David Hytner chatted to Nathan Redmond about Southampton, TokBook and returning to football.

Simon Burnton re-examines Euro 96 and asks, was it even that good?

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

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