A plan to make 100,000 free tickets available to NHS workers across professional football as a ‘thank you’ for fighting coronavirus has met with a surprisingly lukewarm response from some Premier League clubs.
Remarkably the clubs appear to be reluctant to sign up to an initiative launched by Brighton and Hove Albion, who promised 1,000 tickets, and was immediately backed by Bournemouth who matched that figure for all key-workers.
Brighton invited other Premier League, EFL, Scottish and Northern Irish senior clubs to join the campaign by handing the ‘baton’ to one another other but the scheme has met with opposition.
It is felt, by some, that Brighton should not have acted unilaterally in announcing their plan even though they are only asking for 1,000 tickets to be committed by each club.
The Premier League is not against the idea and regard Brighton’s response as a great local initiative while stressing that all the other clubs are also being very supportive in dealing with the outbreak and the help they are providing for their local communities. Some clubs feel they are not able, as yet, to deal with what will happen when football resumes.
Nevertheless it has to be a surprise that Bournemouth have not been able to announce another club, as yet, to carry on the initiative not least because the number of tickets is modest and can also be spread over a number of weekends.
Jeff Mostyn, the Bournemouth chairman, accepted the challenge from Paul Barber, the Brighton chief executive, who said: “We fully appreciate football is the last thing on anyone’s minds at this moment, but we feel this is a small way in which we can show our gratitude for those NHS staff on the frontline, fighting the battle on all of our behalf – and give them something to look forward to.
“If each of the 92 clubs committed on average 1,000 tickets, with the FA donating for a future England international and Scottish Premier League and Irish League clubs also contributing, we could easily top 100,000 tickets for these heroes. We are seeing some brilliant initiatives from clubs all over the world, and I am hopeful that there is more to come from the football family.
Mostyn said: “We are absolutely delighted to match Brighton’s gesture and commit to 1,000, and we will pass the baton to another club with the aim of reaching a significant target so football as a whole can show its appreciation for our country’s NHS workers.”
It had been hoped that Bournemouth would be able to announce another club on Wednesday with the chain continuing but, as yet, that has not happened.
Ipswich Town have said they will provide “free tickets for as many (staff) as we can” and have offered the facilities at Portman Road to the NHS during the outbreak.
At the same time a number of clubs across the leagues are exploring whether they can release their own medical staff to work for the NHS. The Charlton Athletic’s club doctor, Dr Chris Jones, has already volunteered to work for the NHS as has Dr Daniel Broman who is Reading’s club doctor and also team doctor for Tottenham Hotspur women. Both also work for the Isokinetic Medical Group.
Other clubs are expected to follow although they have to balance the desire to help with the needs of their own staff, including the players, for when the football season eventually resume.