The Coronavirus continues to stop life as we know it and as a consequence that means no football. There has been talk by the FA in England that the Premier League could resume on the weekend of June 13th. But that is a best case scenario.
To add to the problems is that for many clubs there are still 9 games to be played and yet UEFA have stipulated that they would like domestic seasons to be completed by July 31st so they could then dedicate the month of August to the Champions League and Europa League.
The top leagues in England seem to be waiting for one reason only and that is the amount of money that is at stake that would be lost this season to TV companies. It is in the region of £700m, that’s what it would cost the FA if they voided the top leagues. Lower leagues have already been declared void and null. In Belgium the league season was brought to an end. The Dutch Erdevisie could close down their league and in Scotland a voting process is taking place to end the season.
So what is the best option for the Premier League?
As time goes on and the PM of England Boris Johnson states that a 2nd wave of the virus could emerge it looks more and more likely that the current season will be voided. If that is announced the problem is over and the next season could start later in the year. Or there is another way, which would be to stop the league season and end it with play off games.
First up Liverpool should be declared winners of the league. They are 25 points clear with 9 games to go, let’s face it the league is over as far as the title winners go. Liverpool had hit some poor form by their standards just before the virus hit but they are not going to lose 8 of their 9 games after losing just one in a year. Not going to happen. Currently Jurgen Klopp’s team need just 2 wins to wrap up their first league title in thirty years.
In the name of gamesmanship one could conclude that Liverpool deserve their title, and if the season was to restart it would only be a matter of time before they would have won it. So let’s give them the title and leave them out.
Next up is Manchester City who are in 2nd place. On account of them being 12 points clear of 5th and very unlikely on losing a top 4 place with the quality the reigning champions have at their disposal they should also be left out of a play off place and should qualify for the Champions League. Of course all of that depends on their appeal with UEFA over an earlier sanction which could see them lose it anyway, but that is an argument for another day.
In an ideal world then, to see who will take up the other 2 places of the Champions League we could have a play-off which would take in teams placed from 3rd to 6th (4 places). 3rd Leicester would play 6th placed Wolves and 4th Chelsea would play 5th placed Manchester United. The two teams who win qualify for the Champions League. Matches could be played behind closed doors as a one off game at Wembley Stadium, with heavy policing outside to stop the congregation of fans.
Of course the likes of Sheffield United in 7th place would feel unjust given that only goal difference separates them from Wolves. Tottenham who are 2 points behind Wolves and Arsenal who are three points would probably feel that they had a good run in chance to compete, but at the end of the day if the league is not abandoned then cut off places are needed. Those teams from 7th to 10th would then go into a play off anyway to determine who plays in the Europa League.
As for relegation Norwich are bottom, but are just six points from safety and with 27 left on the board for them it would seem unfair to just relegate them. So why not a play off?
This is where things could get very heated as it would feel unfair if say the bottom three of the Premier League played off against the top 3 of the Championship who would have felt they have earned their right to have the chance to play in the Premier League. The next objective then would be to have the bottom three of the Premier League play off against the next 3 clubs in the league positioned in 17th, 16th and 15th places. The team in 15th which is currently Brighton are after all just 2 points clear of the relegation zone. But it is evident that those clubs would complain about being rounded up into a play off for survival.
The games would be incredibly exciting though, and for most would amount to a fair way of ending the season. Instead of having to play out another 100 league games, the season could be decided in 9 games.
To some it might sound fair and to others very unjust, but at this time it almost feels like play-offs could be the perfect option for a very troubling and complex moment.
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