Weighing up the options in light of the Covid-19 outbreak...

What happens to the football season now?

2020/03/17 15:03
By John Townley

Covid-19 has made a significant impact on civilisation, society and sport in recent weeks.

The Premier League and EFL have worked closely with the UK government to reduce potential conflicts of interest in what looks set to become a month of legal battles when the country must unite more than ever.

West Ham vice-chairwoman Karren Brady recently suggested the Premier League season should be cancelled by issuing a stance that ratified her ‘null and void’ concept.

Jermaine Jenas claimed all domestic cup competitions should be axed in a bid to fulfil league fixtures. Everybody has ideas, but how can each strategy to combat the Coronavirus outbreak impact the Premier League, EFL and the clubs that fall into England’s top professional leagues.

Void the season

The last resort. Aborting the football season will cause catastrophic financial problems for clubs across the four tiers of professional clubs. No doubt League One and League Two clubs will be the sides hit harder by the financial repercussions of failing to fulfil the remaining two-and-a-half months of the campaign.

Perhaps the hardest decision for league officials to make is the call on promotion and relegation, with over £100m up for stake between the top-flight and Championship.

Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion have for the most part dominated the top-two league spots. Denying a possible return to the Premier League isn’t thinkable for fans, owners or players. Add in the potential relegation of the current Premier League bottom three, Norwich City, Aston Villa and Bournemouth and there are some very big calls to be made. 

Liverpool’s 25-point runaway lead at the league’s summit would not be recognised in a void season. Since 1990, the Reds have failed to reign supreme once more, and such a wait cannot be ignored this time round. 2019-2020 will always be remembered for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, with or without a trophy to show for it.

©Getty / DeFodi Images

Only promotion applies

As touched on, promotions across three of England’s four main leagues is potentially the main source of disruption. The automatic places currently dictate who will be promoted up a league as it stands. Extending the league above by an even amount of clubs has been touted, with five Premier League clubs being relegated next season, for instance.

Reducing backlash from clubs are the league officials’ main objective when plotting contingency plans incase Covid-19 worsens after April. This particular plan would satisfy those clubs who are threatened by relegation, but would still prevent promotion throughout the play-offs. Like in every eventuality that the Premier League or EFL take, there will be dissatisfied clubs.

Reshuffle the calendar

EURO 2020's postponement has been officially ratified by UEFA today. Providing welcome clarity, this frees space for domestic leagues across Europe to potentially conclude their fixtures until pre-season commences in July for most clubs.

As Premier League and EFL action has been scheduled to resume on the first week of April, enough time will be allotted to complete the season, but the rapidly changing nature of the virus has determined that frankly, nobody really knows when large congregations of people or contact will be made safe in England, at least in football circles.

©Getty / Peter Kovalev

Play-off conundrum

Certainly the most dramatic of endings to Premier League or football league season occurs on the last day, so how about a one off match that determines European football, promotion and relegation throughout the four tiers?

Current league positions would determine qualification for play-offs which - using the example of the Premier League and the Championship - could potentially see West Brom face Norwich, Leeds v Aston Villa and Fulham against Bournemouth.

Each and every plan to bring the season to a suitable end will court controversy, but decisions will need to be made and, at the time of writing, the four solutions outlined above seem the most obvious if league proceedings cannot be fulfilled amid the Covid-19 outbreak.


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