Coronavirus: How could the Premier League be finished?
With all elite football in England postponed until April 3 at the earliest due to the Coronavirus outbreak, the Premier League has been left in limbo with regards to how this season could potentially be completed.
At the moment, all top-flight football in the UK - alongside the Championship, League One and League Two - is suspended until the beginning of April, though that could well be extended when the government release more details about sporting events attracting large crowds in the coming days.
Senior figures in parliament are expecting the virus to spike in England in the next 10-14 weeks, meaning that there is a distinct possibility that football in the UK will be halted until summer at the very earliest.
There are a number of different options to be discussed regarding this matter, with one senior source at a Premier League club recently telling the media that there is a 75% chance that this campaign will not be finished.
Just weeks ago this option seemed ludicrous, with few actually believing that it could come to fruition. But, while the ludicrousness of the situation still remains firmly intact, more people are now believing that the FA and Premier League could actually be driven to this bizarre conclusion due to the outbreak’s ever-rising severity.
So, realistically, how could this season be settled if the current suspension is extended beyond April 3rd?
Premier League completed in the summer
Uefa are expected to announce the delayment of Euro 2020 - scheduled to begin in mid-June - until next summer after their much-anticipated meeting on Tuesday which would, theoretically, mean that the rest of the Premier League campaign could be completed during the summer.
This option seems the most logical on the face of it, but does bring with it complications regarding the break between finishing this season and starting next.
If this season is not finished until July, for instance, it would mean that next season would likely not start until September, as players and staff at clubs still need the chance for a break to recuperate and enjoy holidays with their families before a new campaign can begin.
Nobody quite knows how long this is going to go on for due to the unprecedented nature of the situation. While the Premier League and EFL have officially suspended action until April 3rd, we are all well aware that this is likely to be extended by weeks, potentially months.
Premier League clubs are expected to find out today that Uefa want the European domestic season to be completed by the end of June - something which has been mooted of late.
If this pandemic does last for longer than three months, for example (which is quite possible), then it would make completing this season before Uefa’s proposed deadline in June impossible, thus ruling out the option of finalising the campaign during the summer.
End the season, crowning Liverpool as champions
Another option could be to end the campaign as we are, with Liverpool crowned as champions, relegating the current bottom three and promoting the three sides currently at the top of the Championship - Leeds, West Brom and Fulham.
This avenue brings with it endless complications, however, as the Premier League’s current bottom three - Norwich, Aston Villa and Bournemouth - will each argue that they still have plenty of time left to haul themselves out of the relegation zone and to demote them now would be completely unfair.
This would be especially harsh on Aston Villa, considering the West Midlanders are only two points off safety with a game in hand over the rest of the bottom-six, and could feasibly escape relegation with a positive end to their season.
Teams like Manchester United, Wolves, Sheffield United, Tottenham and Arsenal will all also have complaints with this alternative, with each of them gunning for a spot in the top-four this season.
Just eight points separate ninth-placed Arsenal with fourth-placed Chelsea at this stage, with the former having a game in hand over the rest of the chasing pack.
With nine/ten games still left to play and up to 30 points up for grabs, anything could happen and the table could change drastically at the top as well as at the bottom - ending the season but crowning Liverpool as Champions is contradictory.
Many will argue that if the Premier League award the Reds the title, they’ll have to award Champions League places to the current top-four, which is completely unfair on the aforementioned teams all still in with a massive chance of breaking into it.
Void relegation, 22-team Premier League for 2020/21
Another idea is to end the campaign as we are, crowning Liverpool as champions but voiding any relegation to the Championship, while introducing a brand new 22-team Premier League for the 2020/21 campaign.
This option would see both Leeds United and West Brom promoted to the top-flight, and five sides relegated from the Premier League next term. It would also see the current top-four - Liverpool, Manchester City, Leicester and Chelsea awarded the Champions League spaces for next season (pending City’s investigation, of course).
Again, though, this would bring with it a number of complications. If you do this for the top two divisions in England, then you have to do it for all of them, meaning that the same plan would have to be implemented for League One and League Two, and so on.
Teams like Fulham, Nottingham Forest and Brentford will feel aggrieved that they would miss out on the chance of promotion, too - each currently occupy the play-off places in the second-tier but would be denied the opportunity to make a late drive for automatic promotion if the season were to be cut short.
As mentioned with the previous idea, this is also unfair on the sides battling it out for a top-four finish, each of whom will be furious to see their chances of obtaining a spot in next season’s Champions League decimated.
Null and void
Finally, the most extreme option: completely voiding the entire campaign.
This option, however unfair it may seem (and it is completely unfair on sides like Liverpool, Leeds, West Brom etc.), could be the only viable option left available to the Premier League and EFL in the coming months.
Nobody in power wants to see this happen as it would cause complete uproar, but regardless to which of these options are explored, it’s going to produce a monumental kickback from some. Indeed, voiding the season would certainly bring with it the largest.
As things stand, Liverpool are just two wins away from mathematically winning the league title for the first time in 30 years. With a 25-point cushion at the top of the table, it is clear to everyone that the Reds are uncatchable and have more or less completed the job, regardless of the cold, hard figures.
Void the campaign, though, and the season gets wiped. All of Liverpool’s exceptional work this term amounts to nothing and the Merseysiders’ wait for their first title triumph in three decades is extended to at least another year.
While many of Liverpool’s rivals will rub their hands with glee at this prospect, you would be hard-pressed finding anyone who’d disagree with how harsh this outcome would be on the club.
However, with the options involving crowning Liverpool as champions - all the while neglecting the rest of the teams in the division - bringing with them far too many complications, and nobody knowing exactly when this season can be resumed, at the moment, voiding the campaign does seem like a genuine possibility.
It is a possibility which would surely bring riots in Liverpool, Leeds and parts of the Black Country, however, and leave football in a complete state of disarray for years to come.
Although, regardless to how this campaign is eventually resolved, disarray is one thing which is guaranteed to ensue.