Ben Tozer: Cheltenham captain can’t see how football can safely resume

Ben Tozer joined Cheltenham from Newport in the summer of 2018

Cheltenham Town captain Ben Tozer does not think it is possible for football to safely resume this season and fears returning too soon could put his pregnant wife and unborn child at risk.

Football in England was suspended on 13 March because of coronavirus and it is unclear how or when it will return.

Some club doctors have said teams may struggle to follow social distancing and testing requirements.

Tozer, 30, told BBC Points West he “just can’t see” a resolution.

“It would be tough to keep a social distance,” said Tozer, whose side were fifth in League Two with a game in hand when football came to a halt.

“When there’s a corner and you’ve got to mark someone, people are literally holding on to you. There’s the training element of it, where you’re in close contact, and changing rooms.

“There are so many tiny elements, I just don’t think it’s possible. It would be strange.

“And I don’t know if it’s right that the EFL get a right to testing and the general public don’t. That doesn’t sit right really.

“Speaking for myself, my wife is due [to have a baby] in just under six weeks. The thought of her possibly contracting the virus and then if the baby was born and contracted it, that would be devastating.

“Reality has hit home in the last few weeks that it would be majorly tough. My head is all over the place. I’m getting a bit stressed. It’s hard to switch off.”

Tozer said that League Two players have not currently felt pressurised to play, adding: “Once the government make their decision, the EFL, the PFA then have to make their decision.”

Robins facing £1m deficit

Cheltenham director and club secretary Paul Godfrey said outside intervention would be needed to save clubs, including the Robins, if no fans were able to attend matches until 2021.

“It’s like nothing we’ve seen before,” Godfrey added. “We wanted the season completed, to maintain the integrity of the competition and protect the television contracts, but that itself is going to present challenges.

“Meeting the [resumption] criteria is going to be difficult for League One and League Two clubs. Most clubs would have to come out of the government retention scheme but with no income, so that’s challenging.

“The EFL have been very good. We’ve had a weekly conference call and they’ve given us as much information as they can, but of course they’re reliant on the government to keep them updated as well.

“It’s a heads-versus-hearts debate. Our heart wants to play football, we’re fifth in the table, we want to be promoted.

“But going back to playing in an empty stadium, from a business point of view, is difficult to do. You’re looking at probably over 50% of your income gone.

“We’d be looking for some more assistance to see football through this period of uncertainty.”

Asked if Cheltenham could survive on behind-closed-doors matches until 2021, Godfrey replied: “Not without some external help, no.

“There would need to be a coming together of all of the UK football industry, with the government, to work out how to get through it.

“We estimate that if we don’t play football in front of a crowd again this year, the club will have a funding deficit of over £1m, into seven figures.

“[Crowdfunding] is something we’ve looked at. All options have got to be considered in the next few months.”

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