Liverpool chair Werner on virus delaying title

AP – The Premier League trophy should have been in Tom Werner’s hands by now. This week should have featured a victory parade through the streets of Liverpool.

But the wait to end the 30-year title drought continues.

Instead, Liverpool’s chairman is analysing the health procedures required just to ensure it is safe for his team to practice together again. Then further tentative steps can be taken on the path to resuming the season during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Reading through protocols I’m trying to absorb the words that I never thought I knew a month ago,” Werner said. “Social distancing … all this stuff.”

The words particularly dreaded in the red half of Merseyside are “null and void” — if a decision is made to abandon the season with no champion declared. It took a global health emergency to halt Liverpool’s title charge. Juergen Klopp’s team had surged an unprecedented 25 points clear before the league was abruptly suspended in March with nine games remaining.

File photo shows Tom Werner attending a news conference at Fenway Park in Boston. PHOTO: AP

“There’s a hole in so many people’s lives,” Werner told The Associated Press. “Football is central to their dreams and their hopes. And certainly, as regards Liverpool, we are playing magnificent football and we are just a couple of matches away from winning the trophy. But I do put it in perspective … people are suffering, whether they have lost loved ones, are sick or are dealing with this unemployment.”

Werner will next week be helping to fill the football void and provide some light relief when The First Team, a comedy series he has executive produced for the BBC, debuts on British screens.

“Especially right now, when there’s no live football,” Werner said, “it will be a real tonic for people to have some entertainment that revolves around the football stories.”

But Werner hopes his real-life team will soon be back to entertaining too, by becoming the Premier League’s champions — if a little later than expected.

“There’s going be a tiny element of risk, but this is a very healthy group … and there’s going to be frequent testing,” Werner said. “Most importantly, if the scientists and the government feel it’s unsafe, then there will be no football. But hopefully we can figure out a way to play.”

Completing the 38-game season would be ideal for Werner, rather than having Klopp’s team crowned champions without another ball being kicked — as with the case with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in France.

“The more important thing is if we can figure out a way to get these matches played because I think it would be good for the country,” he said. “It will be a boost for people’s morale and give them something to look forward to and a return to normality.”