09:00AM, Sunday 03 May 2020
“I think we’ve played about 20 minutes of this game.”
They’re the first words to come out of the mouth of presenter, journalist and broadcaster Jim Rosenthal as he assesses the state of play in the country’s fight against coronavirus.
The Cookham Dean Cricket Club president desperately hopes to see the resumption of sport in the coming weeks and months, but, in truth, he can’t see it happening. Both from a professional point of view and a social one, sport is incredibly important to Rosenthal. His diary has been ‘wiped out’ he admits, but he also readily accepts he’s one of the lucky ones during the current crisis.
“I think we’ve played about 20 minutes of this game,” he says. “There are so many things to be taken into consideration. I think people have been wildly optimistic about when sport can resume. A lot of it is wishful thinking because there are so many logistical problems.
“Everyone would love to be playing again tomorrow, but there’s a lot of heart ruling heads here and, if you can’t get within six-feet of each other, it’s preposterous to suggest we can have competitive sport back within a month. It’s really sad but you have to take a step back and realise, playing games isn’t really important but saving lives is.”
Rosenthal is referring to the Premier League’s hopes of bring clubs back into training ahead of the resumption of Premier League matches, possibly as early as June. The hope is it will lift the morale of a nation stuck in lockdown, however, Rosenthal points out a myriad of issues that would have to be overcome. And, if he’s being honest, he can’t see there being a sporting event played in front of a crowd any time this year.
“Are we really going to send ambulances to football or cricket matches when we’ve got this going on?”, he said. “And then you’ve got to consider player welfare. What happens if you bring sport back and someone catches it.
“Coming back to Cookham Dean you have to prepare for a completely blank season, and, if we get anything else, I’ll be very pleasantly surprised.
“The Premier League is obviously at the highest level and there are major TV contracts to think about. Everyone’s trying to put dates in place and keep events alive but I just think we’re in for the long haul. And, until you or me can pop down to our local medical centre and take a pill or a jab, there will be problems. That feels a long way off, but until we have it I can’t see how we can return to where we were.
“But, at the same time, the world has to start cranking back into something like normal otherwise the cure will be worse than the pandemic. But, even when that happens will there be much of an appetite for 50,000 people to go and watch a match in one place. I don’t think so. Not when the virus us still there really. If you reduce it to the real realities, If you have social distancing in place I can’t see sport being played full stop. This is a once in a 100 year event. If you balance out whether Liverpool should be champions against 20,000 people dying – and it’s likely to go to two or three times that amount – it really puts things into perspective.”
Like many of his journalist and sports presenter colleagues, Rosenthal’s diary of events he was set to cover this spring and summer has been ‘wiped out’ by COVID-19. But, putting aside his own concerns, which he accepts are light in comparison to many, he’s hoping the reaction of sports organisations, leagues and clubs to coronavirus can – in a strange way – become a force for good.
“Me personally, my diary has been wiped out,” he said. “But I feel lucky about where I live and the green that surrounds us. You fall in love with the place all over again. Getting out for a walk or a run I feel very privileged being where we are. In terms of work you don’t have to be a genius to realise if there’s no sport there’s nothing for me to do. But you have to take it on the chin and move on.
“It’s the strangest time any of us have lived through and I just feel for anyone who has lost a relative or a friend or a loved one. That’s the starting point with everything.
“But sport has become unsustainable, and I’m sure there will be smaller clubs, in Leagues 1 and 2 that will go because of this. But now is a wonderful chance for clubs to reset things. To come up with a plan where you’re not going to lose a million pounds a season. It’s a great chance to sort things out properly and do things the right way.”
Rosenthal’s career was ‘ticking along nicely’ before the arrival of COVID-19 and he’ll be hoping to pick up those contracts again when sport finally does resume.
“I got a nice award from the Sports Journalists association, the Doug Gardner award for services to journalism and television. I’ve also been doing work for MUTV (Manchester United TV) and boxing events here and there. I went to Saudi Arabia to do the Joshua vs Riaz fight and I’ve been working for the radio station Union Jack. I was ticking along very nicely.
“I also did the Amazon Prime football matches back in December. That was lovely and it was a great boost to be doing that again. People seemed to really like it. They could watch matches simultaneously. The reaction to it was fantastic. It was a new way of watching football and technically it worked very well. There was quite a lot of tension about it because these weren’t pre season friendlies. We had to get it right from the word go and we managed it.
“I’ve been retained for next season, but at the moment the world is on hold. Your guess is as good as mine as to when things will return. But, when it comes back, we’ll realise what we’ve got. When something stops you realise what you’ve got, and it will come back, of course it will. All we can do now is stay strong mentally, look after our loved ones and not do anything daft. If we do that we’ll come through it.”
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