Neil Humphreys: Don’t moan about EPL fixture mess, Lampard
EPL clubs all agreed on a tight schedule in order to keep TV cash
To coin a phrase, the English Premier League had a good Covid-19.
Project Restart did not contribute to a fresh outbreak of cases in dressing rooms or outside stadiums on match days.
In the worst of times, the EPL got away with the best possible outcome, so its leading lights should not blow it now.
Do not squander the goodwill by failing to read the room, as a weary planet edges towards a second wave in so many key marketing territories for the EPL.
But that could conceivably happen if too many whiners sing a sad song like Frank Lampard.
The Chelsea manager fears for his tired players. He worries that his squad may lack preparation time for next season. He wants "fair" treatment.
For his troubles, Lampard will get the empathy he deserves. None.
He can hardly be blamed for his poor timing, but it was spectacularly awful, highlighting the detached bubble that the EPL has literally operated within for the last six weeks.
His demands for "fair treatment" came on the same day that the World Health Organisation revealed that July was the worst month of the pandemic.
More than eight million cases were recorded - almost as many as the first six months of the outbreak put together.
British and European infection rates are rising again and the frightening realisation that the virus has neither been curtailed nor controlled has hit harder than a bucket of iced water.
Whether the next EPL season even starts on time isn't certain, but Lampard is already crying foul play.
He has called upon the EPL to push back Chelsea's start to the 2020/21 season, insisting that their Sept 12 is not fair considering the Blues face a Champions League last-16, second leg with Bayern Munich on Sunday morning (Singapore time).
Having lost the first leg 3-0, Chelsea's return to European competition is expected to be short and not particularly sweet. If they leave the competition, they will have a 35-day turnaround before the EPL returns.
All EPL clubs had previously agreed on a 30-day minimum recovery time between the final games of this season and the opening fixtures of the next one.
As a result, the 2020/21 campaign already faces logistical headaches with staggered returns for different clubs still in Europe.
Manchester City, for example, can kick off their EPL opener a week later if they reach the Champions League quarter-finals.
But Lampard has gone a little Oliver Twist and demanded more, when his bowl looked full to begin with, thanks to a cash-saving agreement already in place.
Last month, every EPL club agreed to the start date to pacify jittery sponsors and TV executives, and retain their respective slices of the revenue pie. Naturally, the moneymen demanded something definitive in return.
The new season has to start on Sept 12. No buts. No excuses. Send out the reserves if necessary. Pick the kids. But the show must return, no matter what.
Matches without fans lose enough money, but a new season without matches is catastrophic.
So Lampard's Chelsea must make do, like every other club, company and struggling household from Stamford Bridge to Sengkang at the moment.
Moaning about an injury crisis as millions of EPL fans ponder the omnipresent threat of retrenchment just doesn't cut it.
Promote more youngsters from the Chelsea academy or revise physiotherapy treatments to prevent snapping hamstrings. Either way, Lampard surely needs to accept the benign limitations of being an EPL manager during the worst global health crisis in a century.
He has called upon the EPL to ensure that Chelsea get a "fair start" next season, which is a laughably hypocritical demand.
Bankrolled by an absentee billionaire, the Blues benefited more than most from Project Restart, via a measure that only exacerbated the rich-poor divide.
The fixture pile-up led to the five-substitute rule, which allowed clubs to include nine subs on the bench and make five changes a game.
Smaller clubs like Bournemouth and Norwich City were effectively punished several times over, for lacking the squad depth of their wealthier rivals, whilst playing in smaller, empty stadiums.
Match-day revenue means more to teams without a global fan base. Throughout Project Restart, the relegated clubs had neither - just weaker benches.
And yet, Lampard will probably not be a lone voice in the coming days, as EPL giants bemoan their lack of preparation and recovery time for European competitions as the next season creeps closer.
Frankly, no one cares. A whiny rich club just doesn't appeal to a jaded audience more concerned with job security than Cesar Azpilicueta's hamstrings.
In times of crisis, good PR is priceless. The EPL elite would be foolish to throw it away.