We’re currently living in very unprecedented times, with the world anxiously waiting for a return to not only the world of football but all sports and even just the simple normality of our everyday lives. Throughout the month of February and on going until March leagues from around the world, there head officials and governing bodies collectively had to make quick decision, in regards to the temporary suspension of league play and worse full cancellation of the future rounds and scheduled fixtures. From precautions being taken such as no pre game handshaking ritual to even the more extreme having games playing behind closed doors. Eventually most leagues took those actions of playing without fans but in the end it wasn’t enough to ensure the safety of the staff and athletes. With the stoppage of play within most major leagues and secondary leagues season with no definite champions or places secured meaning ending the season now even trickier with the addition that there still isn’t any return date. With leagues and governing bodies releasing potential dates of return with most of those dates still seeming far off with nothing confirmed it still left the question what will be made of this suspension of domestic leagues. Large international tournaments such as Euro2020 and Copa America 2020 have all been delayed until the next summer making for a simple solution for now in terms of when those specifically will kick off. With the leagues around the world there’s certain challenges that aren’t as easy as delaying the matches that they face. As mentioned without any confirmed return date the questions and eyebrows get even more raised. Here at FootyFirst I’ve personally made some points on how they can potentially go about this dilemma and find common ground and make a decision that seems the fairest.
To begin with a simple resolution is voiding the season entirely and acting as if nothing happened and start fresh. Now going about it with this method fixes the problem head on but with this being done will almost certainly cause other issues to arise. For example that solution won’t be fair with certain leagues such as the Premier League and France’s Ligue 1 having runaway leaders atop there league table with only a handful of wins to go to be crowned champions. Liverpool are currently sitting 20 plus points at the top of the league being clear favourites to win and if this pandemic didn’t become such a global threat they probably would’ve been crowned champions as of the time of writing this. Certain fans, critics and pundits alike are suggesting it wouldn’t be fair to give them the title due to the season not being completed. To those arguments it’s hard to see which ones are valid as a chunk of those arguments are coming from Manchester United and Manchester City supporters. With other sports having situations that have concluded the season on premature basis having the league end early wouldn’t be the worst of outcomes in such a time when head officials needs to be creative. Personally I don’t see the huge issue as over 3/4 of the season has been played and it’s quite clear who the champions were going to be but again I think Liverpool being crowned champions isn’t the biggest issue of it. Regardless of voiding the season or giving Liverpool the title or not, I think the hardest part to decipher a plan is in regards to the promotion/relegation and European places for the following season. Especially in the Premier League with the massive financially implications of being relegated has added to the fact of why making a decision will be so difficult. Champions League and Europa League places are so open now with 4th place Chelsea only 9 points ahead of 10th place Burnley, meaning if Chelsea just lose there next three and Burnley keep the momentum they’ve gradually shown throughout the campaign means Burnley is mathematically still able to qualify for Champions League (doesn’t mean it’ll happen but you get the gist). Examples of this continue throughout the Spots in between as Wolves and Sheffield United are 5 points off Champions League football which would be a massive triumph for clubs of there stature. With no indefinite places secured besides the first 3, it makes the final champions league spot and remaining Europa League Spots very tricky on if they’d have to choose who gets in and who doesn’t. Same goes to the bottom places with the bottom 6 all hovering around with a similar points record makes again for a hard decision. If the choice was made to instantly relegate the final three, multiple arguments would be made such as Watford and West Ham being level on points with the relegated Bournemouth and that it wouldn’t be fair as they’d be relegated on just goal difference by a goal or two. Aston Villa would then also have a valid point making they still have a game at hand and with a win it would most definitely bump them out the drop zone.
With all these complications I truly believe the season will ultimately be needed to be completed or scraped entirely and due to the fact we’re so deep into the season I don’t think it would be fair to scrap it. The best outcome of this is finding a way to have these fixtures potentially rescheduled, re-formatted in a such style that they can squeeze and fit in all the necessary games. If that means forgetting this years SuperCups and Community Shield like games and similar Finals of such then so be it, it’ll just come with the challenges we’re facing due to the pandemic. A model to follow that I’ve seen being brought up numerous times is having cup competitions move away from a first and second leg draw to a one off knockout match. More examples is pushing games closer to each other and cutting out certain games. Moving games to a tournament style format rather than a round robin. Whatever the decision made the one thing we can all count on for the most part is NO FANS. The reality we knew of having fans at games with Tifos and large groups singing in unison to encourage there teams is done for at least a majority of the remainder of the year. For whatever football we do end up seeing this year I think most fans alike can pretty much assume will be behind closed doors, despite that not being or feeling like the true form of the game in times like this we have to get what we can and slowly move back into the norm. UEFA has suggested doing something like a final four styled week of football celebration with one off semi final fixtures and having both European finals conclude in a course of a week or weekend. The English FA made similar points of potentially doing a two week styled model finishing remaining games and fixtures in a purpose built camp made specifically to house the athletes and focus on completing the season.
Whatever decision gets made it’s evident that governing bodies and the individuals who makes these decisions will need one thing. And that’s CREATIVITY, with potential dates continued to be tossed around and tossed around and head officials and medical authorities monitoring the situation it’s safe to say that we probably won’t be seeing football normally for a little awhile. With this situation leaving most fans including me watching old classic archived matches still wondering when will things pick back up to normal it’s clear that this will forever change the game we love the question that lies within that is; how much it’ll change the game we love so much.