Image Credit: Jonathan Rolande
To read the original article ‘The Coronavirus Condundrum’, go tohttps://nouse.co.uk/2020/03/12/the-coronavirus-conundrum
Since writing my article on the options that could be taken to deal with the coronavirus in football, one more option has shown up and been presented by various people. The Telegraph reported that one plan would be to finish Premier League season with Liverpool declared as champions with Leeds and West Brom being promoted from the Championship. No relegation however would mean that the Premier League would expand to 22 teams for the season with 5 going down in the 2020/21 season. Another report suggested that four would be relegated next season with two being promoted from the Championship.
This idea has notably been supported by Brighton Chief Paul Barber who said “the priority for us all is to play the remainder of the season. That’s what we all want. But we have to be realistic. None of us know where the situation with the virus is heading. We don’t want to go down this route. But if we cannot complete the season we have got to look at quite radical solutions to try and get over a short-term hump. We don’t know whether or not we will be able to even complete the fixture list.”
So let’s look at this idea. I want to get the elephant in the room out of the way and state that I am a Leeds fan, therefore my team would benefit through this proposal. If you’re not going to listen to my argument and think I’m just making it because I’m a Leeds fan, then please stop reading now and find something else to do. I’ve called this option 1.5 because it is a middle option between options 1 and 2 from my original coronavirus article.
Let’s tackle the very top part first. No one should debate whether Liverpool deserve the Premier League trophy, if the season could be completed, there is a good chance that they would go onto be the best team English football has ever seen in the 132 seasons that we have had top flight football. The reds more than deserve their trophy and right to call themselves ‘Premier League Champions’. This is the least controversial part of the plan as there’s no doubt that Liverpool would have won the league anyway.
This is also designed to be more advantageous to the teams at the bottom of the Premier League and top of the Championship. As mentioned on episode 12 of The Sports Blitz Podcast, even though it’s better than voiding the season, it would still be harsh on those teams who thought they had 10 games to save their seasons to simply tell them tough luck, you’re down. Similarly at the top of the Championship, where Leeds and West Brom have owned the automatic promotion places, it would be harsh to say, tough luck, no promotion for you. This is essentially the problem with Option 2 that Option 1.5 aims to solve. It does seem fair to say that it’s better for those five teams in the relegation places in the Premier League and top two in the Championship. Their fans would probably be happy with this, the teams in the Premier League places 1-17 would probably be happy with this.
However, this is not without it’s problems. Fulham, Brentford, Nottingham Forest and Preston have been working for 37 matchdays with the expectation that if they finish where they are, they would have the chance to enter the Play-Offs and get that final, valuable Premier League spot for the upcoming season. So we’ve now gone from telling Leeds and West Brom tough luck to telling it to the four teams in the Play-Off places (even though by extension, we would have been telling them that with option 1). Then comes the problem of what to do as we move down the football pyramid. Yes, this helps the Premier League but what about the teams in the relegation places in the Championship? What about League One’s promotion and relegation spots and so on? I often find myself complaining that football in England is too Premier League centric, that too much of the focus is on the top flight and that changes need to be made. Well, this is a very Premier League solution that does not (at least to my knowledge) have much thought for the Football League. This, for me has to be urgently addressed if we are to ever go forward with this option.
Let’s face it, ending the season will always be the best option. For me, that’s still the case, even if we have to end the season in September and reshuffle 2020/21 around and cut fixtures from that, at least we would be aware of these changes from the beginning of the season. However, under the assumption (and it is nothing more than an assumption at this point) that we can’t finish the season, then this could be seen as a good compromise. However, it is a compromise over that needs work and until then, it’s hard to see whether this is preferable over normal promotion and relegation. The only thing that is certain is that it’s 1000x better than voiding the season.