Mark Catlin: The debate Portsmouth, football and society must now have through Project Restart

They say the darkest hour is before dawn.

And it appears at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic there is a chink of light: football.

After the weekend’s events, it seems the day the game at elite level is back in our lives is moving closer - a symbol of society on these shores of being able to begin inching towards a return to normality amid the Covid-19 crisis.

Project Restart as the process is now being termed has kicked into gear off the government’s willingness to begin looking at the prospect of football’s return.

It’s the kind of positive news which is desperately needed after nearly six weeks of lockdown - and Pompey chief executive Mark Catlin believes football has a big role to play in lifting national morale.

He said: ‘If you read the quotes coming out of government, this does have the potential to give the mood of the nation a lift if they can watch games again.

‘It would be the first signs of a return to some kind of normality.

‘It has to be safe to do so, but, at the moment, the country is in desperate need of some good news. But it has to be safe - that’s the main priority.

Pompey chief executive Mark Catlin. Picture: Joe Pepler

‘We can’t go through all we’ve been so far to undo it with some careless decisions.’

Catlin has continually preached the imperative safety comes first when it comes to considerations over when will be the right moment for football to return.

But he highlighted it appears the coronavirus crisis is moving along a timeline which will reach a crossroads over the protective measures in place - both in football and all facets of our lives.

The debate Catlin’s increasingly having with figures in and out of the football sphere surrounds when that day will arrive.

Catlin added: ‘There are bigger things at play here than football.

‘It’s the risk-reward situation. Does society genuinely want to change the way we live for the foreseeable future to accommodate this virus? Is that what society wants?

‘Does it get to a point where I can’t see my daughter and two young grandchildren growing up? ‘How long does that go on for? Or at some point are we going to allow people individually to make that decision, whether they want to take the risk or not?

‘Generally life is about risk. Every time my daughter puts her children in a car there’s a risk to it.

‘There’s a risk to everything in life, but at what point do we allow people to accept those risks and let them make the decision.

‘I think we’re going to be governed by the government and we should 100 per cent follow their rules and guidelines.

‘But at some point they are going to have to say, do we want to carry on living like this?

‘There will be a point, if a vaccine isn’t found, they will have to say do we want to go through life not seeing our loved ones or going to sporting events.

‘Are the government going to say the up side to it outweighs the risk?

‘I’m not a politician but that’s the broader view - and the conversation I’m having with many, many people at the moment.’