We are being asked to trust all sorts of authority. Should schools stay open or not? A European travel ban or not? Lockdown or not? “Herd immunity” or “flattened curve”? Now a rush—goldrush?—for a vaccine is looming. Far be it to compare football to any of the above, but consequential decisions are nigh—beginning with the UEFA organised meeting/conference call on Tuesday. And maybe, just maybe, the authorities will get them right.
Euro 2020—Done. Kaput. Finito. A competition involving at least two of the countries currently hit hardest with multiple cities and expected travel for teams, officials, media and supporters alike makes no sense whatsoever. The plans have to be finalized in advance—this is a no-brainer. Postpone it until 2021.
Champions/Europa League—There will not be time—even if June is both clear from the Euros (and the leagues—which seems impractical)—to finish the competitions without serious compression of the schedule. For what reason? Why risk the health of the players—irrespective of Covid-19—for that? Some mini-playoff has been suggested, but in the case of the UCL that would still mean, presumably, 3 games involving all 8 teams—or 12 in all—before the final. As it now stands there would be an identical number. Perhaps the advantage is the ability to play in neutral sites and behind closed doors—and take the fans out of the equation. This seems foolish. End it for the year.
League Schedules—here’s where it gets trickier, for all concerned. Everything from will Liverpool be awarded their long sought-after title to will clubs in the lower levels make enough from gate proceeds to survive. Again, some early resumption that would allow all the games to still be played seems like an absurd proposition. I haven’t heard a single expert claim that the worst will be over by May, let alone the April 3 date the PL and EFL have agreed to—so the only possible window is probably June/July, left open by the UEFA decisions I think likely above. Really? Squeeze 10 games or more—not counting the promotion playoffs—into a time frame where a) players contracts end; b) the transfer window opens and c) all this after a forced layoff of nearly 3 months, which would greatly increase the likelihood of other injuries. It makes no sense. Nor does a shortened schedule because then any team that is relegated or misses out on promotion has a legitimate gripe that they were unfairly done for. And lawsuits could easily abound. The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta just recommended no events with more than 50 people for the next two months in the USA (CNN).
Far fairer is this. End the season. Now. Award Liverpool the one trophy that matters and to anyone that complains about the precedent, simply laugh and say if we ever get to a place where a team is 25 points ahead and the last quarter of the season has been called off, then I guess we have set a precedent. And I suspect if we go there again the plight of Man City, Arsenal, Spurs or West Bromwich, for God’s sake, will be the least of our worries.
Promote two teams in each lower league. Relegate no one. Leeds and West Brom have earned their position—the others were all facing playoffs anyway, so their chances were always much more remote. Coventry is just as deserving and Rotherham gets the golden ticket. The Championship and League One—which would receive three new teams since Bury was disbanded will keep their 24 team list. The Premier League will have one season of 22 teams where 5 teams will be relegated a year from now—perhaps involving a playoff system—and League Two can do whatever they wish with the National League. There will be complaints, but they will be minor compare to all the alternatives. There may be some payments necessary by the Premier League to help keep some teams solvent in the lower leagues—a one-time bailout, if you will. Kindness gets repaid in these situations, so don’t be pennywise and pound foolish. And eventually—come the end of the summer—the pies will bake, the flags will wave, the balls will bounce, and we will restart our footy routine.
Have something to tell us about this article?