How Could the Premier League resume amid coronavirus pandemic?

The Premier League has been left in limbo after the postponement of the campaign until April 4 at the earliest as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Officials from all 20 clubs will hold an emergency meeting on
Thursday to establish plans for the remainder of the season, with one
senior source at a Premier League club telling Sky Sports there is a 75
per cent chance this season will not be completed.

Premier
League officials have been gathering expert medical advice and will put
forward several options to all 20 clubs, with detailed financial and
sporting implications.

So, as the clubs try to plot a way forward, what might some of the options be?

Declare the season null and void

The
most drastic option. In effect, the entire season so far –
approximately three-quarters of an entire campaign – would be wiped from
the record books. This would rule out a title winner, qualification for
Europe, relegation and so forth – and the new 2020/21 would begin from
scratch.

West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady has discussed this option, writing in The Sun:

“There
is no dodging the possibility that all levels in the EFL, as well as
the Premier League, will have to be cancelled and this season declared
null and void because if the players can’t play, the games can’t go
ahead.

“So what if the league cannot be finished? As games
in both the PL and in the EFL are affected, the only fair and reasonable
thing to do is declare the whole season null and void.”

Declare the season null and void – but crown Liverpool champions

The
most glaring issue with the ‘null and void’ option is the obvious
unfairness to Liverpool, 25 points clear at the top of the Premier
League and champions in almost all-but name.

Could the
Premier League vote for Liverpool to be crowned champions? Would any
club vote against such a motion? It’s fascinating to speculate on, but
impossible to know. Still, it’s worth noting that even Brady
acknowledged that denying Liverpool the title would be ‘robbery’.

But where do you draw the line? Making an exception just for
Liverpool would incense many supporters. Manchester City still have to
host Liverpool, who have previous of allowing league titles to slip
away.

If this “inarguable” case – as The Anfield Wrap‘s Neil Atkinson put forward on Sky Sports News
– was applied to further down the footballing pyramid, should West
Brom, just six points clear of Fulham with nine games to play, be
granted promotion to the top flight?

The Premier League will
want any decision on the league’s next steps to be agreed unanimously –
as was this week’s decision to suspend the season until April 3.

But if disagreements do persist, two-thirds of clubs – 14 – are required to agree to any constitutional change.

Could the current league table be used to finalise the title, CL places and relegation?

In
theory, yes. But while Liverpool have been considered champions in
waiting for some time, nothing else in the league – from relegation to
qualification for Europe and even the Golden Boot – comes close to being
conclusive.

To relegate Bournemouth, Aston Villa and
Norwich after only 29 matchdays would undoubtedly be considered unfair.
But it would be especially harsh on Villa given they have played 28
games and are just two points off Watford in 17th.

Could a final table be extrapolated by an average number of points?

Again, in theory yes, but the crux of any league season is that every
club plays every other club twice. Using the current league table from
28 or 29 games to declare the final league table would be a leap too far
for many.

Aston Villa supporter Dan Bardell from the 1874 Podcast told Sky Sports: “I don’t see how they can just relegate the sides currently in the bottom three.

“Everyone
needs to be on an even keel, everyone needs to have played the same
amount of games. If we were to win that game in hand, we’d go out of the
relegation zone. There’s still 92 games to be played overall. There’s
still so many left.”

Could the new Premier League season start with 22 clubs?

It’s an idea seemingly gaining traction with reports on Saturday morning suggesting that the new Premier League season could start with 22 clubs, promoting Leeds and West Brom to the current crop of 20.

Such a response would require a substantial reworking of the
calendar, perhaps necessitating an earlier start or even the remodelling
of the FA Cup and Carabao Cup.

Allowing for the two sides
currently occupying the automatic promotion places in the Sky Bet
Championship to go up would rankle with those currently in the play-off
zone, and indeed those clubs who still feel that given their remaining
fixtures they can still gatecrash the party, as seen on so many previous
occasions.

It would also have a knock-on effect on the number of sides promoted from Sky Bet League One, and so on.

How likely is it that the season will resume at the start of April?

That’s the million-dollar question. But by next Thursday, the clubs
will know more about the government’s plans to ban mass gatherings,
including football fixtures, and there should be a clearer understanding
of the direction of travel following UEFA’s emergency meeting on
Tuesday about whether this summer’s European Championships will be
delayed.

When could the season be extended until?

If
Euro 2020 is delayed by a year then it would open up the possibility of
the current Premier League season being extended int the summer. But
the scheduled Euro 2020 final date of July 12 could be used as a marker
for the end of the domestic season in Europe too.

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