The match scheduled for December 15th between Burnley and Watford was officially postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the Hornets’ squad. The measures to push the match back were necessary – as player safety, of course, comes first – but how the postponement occurred was calamitous.
Necessary but Communicative Catastrophe
As an outbreak of COVID-19 is hitting the Watford squad, the moving of this game was necessary to ensure the safety of many. Even with more and more players becoming vaccinated, the virus is still highly contagious and needs to be taken seriously to protect those who are at risk of further complications. It is important that football matches do not quickly become “super spreader” events.
Having a match pushed back is never an enjoyable experience for supporters: days are spent waiting in anticipation of a given match-up – especially the case for this relegation six-pointer – so when the league announces the game will have to be moved, there is an inevitable disappointment. However, the way Watford went about dealing with this outbreak has not been anywhere near responsible enough.
The traveling supporters had to make a 220+ mile, 4+ hour journey north to Turf Moor to be able to roar on the Golden Boys. For most of the day, all seemed well. As the sun started to set, the typical pre-match supporting nerves started to kick in. Then came the notification.
Two hours and sixteen minutes before kickoff, the Club took to social media to confirm that the Premier League had determined the match needed to be postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the Watford squad. Just 136 minutes before kickoff, the Club confirmed that the match was called off. The thousands of traveling supporters, who spent nearly double that time just to get to Burnley, had to turn around without seeing a minute of football.
Again, safety has to always be the priority, and, currently, a COVID-19 outbreak in a squad should require a postponement of games until the outbreak passes to ensure there is no extra spreading. But the fact it took the Club until just over two hours before kickoff to confirm the outbreak and postponement of the match is nothing short of appalling for numerous reasons.
There should have been much more notice given to the public about this outbreak. It is impossible to suggest that Watford only learned of the outbreak 136 minutes before kickoff. It is super unlikely, especially under revamped testing protocols, that this outbreak was only discovered within the past 24 hours. While definitive conclusions cannot be made just yet, the one certainty is that the Club could have, and most certainly shouldhave, given the public (especially the traveling supporters) much more notice of the outbreak. No, the Club does not owe it to the public to disclose every medical issue within the squad. But yes, it is the Club’s responsibility to ensure that traveling supporters know the status of their trip much more than two hours ahead of time, especially when the cause for postponement is not something that spontaneously appeared in the moment. The Club must have known about the potential problem long before they considered informing the fans that there was even a slight chance of the game being canceled.
The ruined plans and money spent for the trip to Burnley is not a reason as to why the game should have gone ahead: once more, safety must come first. However, the fact the Club actively knew about the issue and neglected to warn supporters until it was too late for them to turn around and save their money and time is nothing short of unprofessional and condemnable.