5 potential scenarios for the end of the current season once the suspension ends | Premier League 2019-20
- The coronavirus outbreak has caused the suspension of the Premier League - but how can the 2019-20 season be resolved? Here are 5 scenarios.
The outbreak of the coronavirus has caused absolute chaos across the planet in recent weeks, and naturally, the world of football hasn’t been immune to the issues. This past week saw the announcement that the Premier League has been suspended until at least April 4th, with fears that even by that point, the competition will be unable to resume.
This is, essentially, unprecedented ground for the Premier League; outside of handfuls of games being scrapped due to extreme weather conditions, the last time the English football season ground to a halt in such a way was due to the outbreak of World War II.
Naturally, since the announcement there has been plenty of talk about where the Premier League goes from here with regards to the unfinished 2019-20 season; here are 5 possibilities that could happen.
#1 The season ends as normal after the suspension
In an ideal world, the threat of Covid-19 would die down quickly, meaning that the Premier League’s suspension would end as planned on April 4th, allowing the season to continue as normal. In this scenario, due to the international break which had been scheduled for the week beginning 23rd March, the league’s teams would all have missed two games.
This issue would be relatively easy to resolve; either the games could be squeezed in as midweek fixtures, or the season could be extended, meaning that the international friendly games scheduled to take place as part of a warm-up for Euro 2020 would likely be scrapped – potentially along with the tournament itself. However, for as ideal a solution as this would be, it just doesn’t seem likely right now.
Brighton’s chief executive Paul Barber has already stated that it’s hard to imagine the Premier League being able to resume on April 4th, and given the current reports surrounding the spread of the virus across the world – not just in the UK – it’s logical to assume that he’s probably right. April 4th is only 3 weeks away, and the possibility of the COVID-19 pandemic being even on the downturn by then seems slim. That means that this scenario is highly unlikely.
#2 The season is declared null and void
Assuming that the Premier League can’t restart on April 4th, the most obvious solution would be to simply declare the 2019-20 campaign null and void, with the competition – hopefully – restarting with the 2020-21 season as normal in August. With teams either having 9 or 10 games remaining, the season is far from over and thus, if it’s unable to be restarted, then chalking it off seems like a good idea in principle.
However, declaring 2019-20 null and void brings its own issues. Firstly, league leaders Liverpool are currently on 82 points, a massive 25 points ahead of their nearest rivals Manchester City, and look certain to win the league. However, as their victory isn’t a mathematical certainty, declaring the season null and void would mean they’d never be crowned champions – something that just doesn’t seem fair.
And with a null and void season, what would happen to the Champions League spots for 2020-21? The most likely outcome would be that they would be handed to the sides that qualified for the competition in 2019-20; Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham and Chelsea, with an obvious asterisk hanging over City’s participation due to their suspension from European football.
However, as of writing, Leicester City sit in 3rd place in the table and look set to claim a Champions League spot, and Manchester United, Wolves and Sheffield United are all within reach of claiming the fourth spot in Europe’s biggest competition. So would it be fair to write their season off at this stage?
Equally, the same could be said of EFL Championship sides Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion, who look set for promotion to the Premier League, and League One’s Coventry City, who are on course to move into the Championship. Null and voiding 2019-20 would render their impressive campaigns moot; is that really fair? It’s a difficult question.
#3 The season is declared over with the table in its current state
Another option could be simply declaring the season over and done with at the current point, meaning the Premier League’s teams would have to settle for their current places in the table and everything that comes with them.
Liverpool fans would, of course, be happy with this scenario; the Reds would be declared champions on 82 points – ironically enough, a total that could’ve netted them the title anyway in some previous seasons – while assuming Manchester City’s ban would stand, the Champions League spots would go to Leicester City, Chelsea and Manchester United.
At the opposite end of the table, Norwich City, Aston Villa and Bournemouth would slip into the EFL Championship, being replaced by Leeds United, West Bromwich Albion, and, well, that third promotion slot would be an issue given that it’s usually decided by the play-offs. But Fulham currently sit in 3rd place, so perhaps handing promotion to them would be fair.
However, what wouldn’t be fair would be the fact that while the majority of the Premier League’s sides have played 29 games, 4 of them – Manchester City, Sheffield United, Arsenal and Aston Villa – have only played 28. And to make things very awkward, while the fates of City and the Gunners can’t be changed by that game in hand, the same can’t be said for Villa and the Blades.
A win for Villa would elevate them into 16th – pushing Watford into a relegation slot – while a win for Sheffield United would move them into 5th place, handing them a Champions League slot for 2020-21.
Given the financial implications that remaining in the Premier League or qualifying for the Champions League can have on a team, it doesn’t seem fair to rob Villa or the Blades of their opportunities at that. That alone means that this would be a bad idea.
#4 The season is declared over, teams are promoted but not relegated
One scenario that has been mooted that could work would be ending the season with the teams in their current spots, but with the caveat that while teams could be promoted, there would be no relegation from the Premier League, the EFL Championship, League One or League Two.
In this scenario, we’d end up with a 22-team Premier League for the 2020-21 season, meaning that to put things back to normal for 2021-22, 5 teams would need to be relegated. The extra teams would, of course, mean each side playing a total of 40 league games instead of 38, resulting in the scrapping of the EFL Cup for a season to accommodate this.
Again, Liverpool fans would be happy with this; it’d mean they would be crowned champions, albeit in a somewhat anticlimactic way, and of course, fans of Norwich, Aston Villa and Bournemouth would probably be ecstatic in the knowledge that their poor form in the current campaign would not result in relegation.
However, while this scenario would work for those sides – and for the sides who are looking set for promotion – it would throw up the same issues with regards to the Champions League spots as the previously suggested scenario. However, given the financial implications of Champions League qualification still pale in comparison to the problems that relegation from the Premier League can cause, this would probably be a fairer route.
#5 The season is declared null and void; teams begin 2019-20 with the same points totals and goal difference they currently have
A somewhat convoluted scenario that could happen would see the 2019-20 campaign be declared null and void, but rather than begin things afresh in 2020-21, the Premier League season would actually start with the teams on their current point totals and goal difference. That would mean Liverpool – while not being declared champions in 2019-20 – would start 2020-21 with a 25-point lead, while Norwich would still be cut adrift at the bottom, 6 points from safety.
This scenario would at least mean there’s been some point to the current campaign; for Liverpool fans, a 25-point lead would be huge and almost unassailable for the Reds’ rivals, meaning a title win for Jurgen Klopp’s side in 2020-21 would be highly likely.
The good work done by sides like Sheffield United and Leicester City would also pay off, while Norwich, Aston Villa and Bournemouth would still need to work hard to survive, and promotion candidates like Leeds United would still be likely to move up eventually.
However, this scenario would cause several issues; the question of the Champions League places would still hang over the league, while the potential for financially stronger strugglers like Villa and West Ham to simply spend their way out of danger by using two extra transfer windows would also be a possibility.
Would this be better than a null and void season? For fans of a handful of clubs, perhaps – but for others, it’d cause more potential harm than good.
Published 16 Mar 2020, 03:24 IST