Premier League pays tribute to Black Lives Matter and NHS as season restarts

Premier League pays tribute to Black Lives Matter and NHS as season restarts
Players’ names have been replaced with ‘Black Lives Matter’ for upcoming games (Pictures: Getty)

The Premier League got back underway at long last on Wednesday evening with clubs and players paying tribute to both the NHS and Black Lives Matter movement.

After a 100-day wait, Aston Villa and Sheffield United kicked off the season restart at Villa Park – with Manchester City versus Arsenal to follow – though football looked very different indeed with no crowds or ball boys but plenty of face masks, while each team’s kit has undergone a transformation.

Players have had the names on the back of their shirts replaced with ‘Black Lives Matter’ for the first 12 fixtures of the restarted Premier League season, continuing through to Burnley’s trip to face Man City on Monday evening.

Players warmed up in Black Lives Matter tops
Players warmed up in ‘Black Lives Matter’ tops (Picture: Getty)

There is also a blue heart-shaped badge on the front of the shirts for the NHS, with players also holding a minute’s silence in recognition of those affected by coronavirus before each game for the first round of fixtures.

The Premier League badge has also been ditched from the right sleeve and replaced with a BLM logo which will remain in place for the rest of the campaign.

In the eery silence of a supporter-less Villa Park, players from the two teams stood socially distanced apart before the game to remember those who have lost their lives to Covid-19 and honour the hard work of the NHS.

Players in other leagues around the world have opted to take a knee before and during matches in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last month, a symbolic act in opposition to racism, and the Premier League say they will support any players who choose to do so.

A joint players statement released by the league last week read: ‘We, the players, stand together with the singular objective of eradicating racial prejudice wherever it exists, to bring about a global society of inclusion, respect, and equal opportunities for all, regardless of their colour or creed.’

Aston Villa hosted Sheffield United in the first match back
Aston Villa hosted Sheffield United in the first match back (Picture: Getty)

Players have also worn warm-up T-shirts printed with messages in support of the Black Lives Matter.

Prior to their friendly against Brentford a week ago, Arsenal’s squad took a knee wearing tops that had messages such as ‘I can’t breathe’, ‘Silence is violence’, ‘My skin is not a crime’ and ‘I’m not black but I stand with you’.

Both teams took a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement
Both teams took a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement (Picture: Getty)

Premier League footballers have been very active during lockdown to contribute to society in the wake of the coronavirus, launching an initiative called #PlayersTogether which raised money for NHS frontline staff.

Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford – who will be back in action on Friday night – forced the government into a U-turn over free school meals for 1.3 million children, while Raheem Sterling has spoken passionately and thoughtfully about systemic racism within football.

Villa’s clash with Sheffield United, which is followed by Arsenal’s trip to Manchester City, has seen a host of new rules and regulations implemented, with players taking a ‘sterile route’ to the stadium, dressing rooms expanded and pre-match team talks limited to 15 minutes.

There are strict protocols for players to avoid spitting and nose clearing, the pre-match handshakes have been scraped and teams have been asked to avoid celebrating in groups if they score.

With no ball boys, disinfected balls have been placed around the sides of the pitch while crowd noise taken from the FIFA video games series is allowed to be played during breaks of play and can be selected as an audio option on television broadcasts. Teams are also now entitled to five substitutions.

MORE: Marcus Rashford reveals details of Boris Johnson phone call after U-turn over free school meals

MORE: Which Premier League games are on free-to-air TV and how to watch them?

Follow Metro Sport across our social channels, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

For more stories like this, check our sport page.

No comments