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Football's Coronavirus chaos: Assessing four options for how the season could eventually be brought to an end

After weeks of hearing about Coronavirus spreading its way across the world, European football, including the Premier League, finally came to its senses this week and took the decision to down tools.

Immediately after the Premier League announced its decision to postpone its fixtures until at least April 4th, fans immediately went wild speculating about how, or indeed if, the 2019/20 season will come to a conclusion.

There may only nine games of the top-flight calendar to go, but there is still plenty still to play for on the domestic and European front, including titles, promotions, relegations, as well as who qualifies for the next season’s European competitions.

However, no matter what happens from here on in, we are sure it’s almost guaranteed to be an absolute mess. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of four potential outcomes for the remainder of the campaign:

Finish the season out

The fairest and most desirable option of the lot would surely be to let the season come to its conclusion, though it is the option which is likely to prove the most difficult to physically achieve within the current time constraints.

The current Premier League campaign is due to be completed by May 17th, less than a month before the onset of the summer’s European Championship, which kick off on June 12th.

However, UEFA are expected to announce a delay to their pan-continental competition until December or next summer, allowing European leagues to be afforded extra time to get their campaigns completed.

However, with the infection rate of the COVID-19 virus still on the up, there’s no guarantee that we’ll be seeing a ball kicked any time soon, which could push any potential finish date way into the summer. That, of course, could cause further issues with the likes of players contracts which are due to expire on June 30th, and the summer transfer window due to open on July 1st.

Surely we need to be done and dusted by then before we end up creating an even more congested campaign next season?

It’s far too early to make a definitive decision on this season

End it as it is

29 games down, nine to go. The season is already 76.3% complete and some have suggested we should just accept the current table as the final standings and end it all now.

However, the nine remaining fixtures still offers teams the opportunity to add 27 points to their current tallies, and with the way this most inconsistent of seasons has shaped up so far, there could be plenty of movement in the final weeks of the campaign, especially in the key areas of the table.

Towards the top, ninth-placed Arsenal are just eight points off the top four places, and still have a game in hand, while Spurs, Sheffield United, Wolves, Man United and Chelsea are all vying for a place in next season’s Champions League. Man United – currently on an 11 game unbeaten run in all competitions and buoyed by the arrival of Bruno Fernandes – would fancy their chances of bridging their three-point deficit, especially looking at their remaining fixtures.

Meanwhile down at the bottom, and with only eight points separating 15th and 20th, the ‘end it as it is’ scenario would see Norwich, Aston Villa and Bournemouth being consigned to Championship football – and the significant drop in finances that comes with it – all without a ball being kicked from here ’til May.

Unless you support Liverpool, none of it seems particularly fair, does it?

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‘Null and Void’

Baroness Karren Brady – co-owner of 16th placed West Ham United – used her column in The Sun this weekend to say that if the remaining games cannot be completed, then “the only fair and reasonable thing to do” is to declare the season “null and void”. No winners, no champions, no promotions, and no relegations. Nothing. It never happened.

Yep, the whole season – including Liverpool opening up a whopping and (almost) unassailable 25 point lead at the top of the Premier League – scrapped.

Well, that would be an awfully convenient scenario for the Hammers, whose remaining fixtures include games against Wolves (h), Spurs (a), Chelsea (h) and Man Utd (a), not to mention relegation scraps and potential six-pointers against Norwich (a), Watford (h) and Villa (h).

However, despite it being a bitterly cruel twist of fate for Jurgen Klopp’s league leaders, it would still be a fairer option than just ending the season with a significant percentage of fixtures still to be played.

Hybrid solution

Saturday’s Telegraph suggested that the Premier League clubs could agree to a more hybrid solution. They claim that top-flight clubs have no issues with declaring Liverpool the winners, and after opening a 25 point lead, it’s hard to argue they don’t deserve it, no matter who you support.

However, the other issues still remain, which could result in a more radical solution which could satisfy the majority.

The report claims that if the remainder of the season cannot be played out, Norwich, Villa, and Bournemouth would all be spared from relegation, while the Championship’s current top two, Leeds United and West Brom, would be granted promotion to the top flight, making the 2020/21 season a 22 team competition.

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In order to offset the increased number of fixtures – 38 to 42 – the report claims that the EFL Cup could be temporarily scrapped for a season, while five teams, as opposed to three, would be relegated the following summer in order to return to 20 teams from 2021/22 onwards.

The issue of qualification to Europe would still need to be settled though, with it being suggested that the teams who qualified for this season’s European competitions being handed a place in the Champions League, while the likes of Leicester, Man United and Wolves would be entered into an extended qualification phase – and that’s not to mention Man City’s appeal to CAS over their ban.

That seems like an excellent solution if your name is Jose Mourinho and are in charge of a side currently sitting in eighth, though not so good if you support a Leicester side who have been within the top three since gameweek 6.

We did say it would be a mess.

Read: Klopp’s classy message to Liverpool fans amid pandemic

See Also: Analysing Pep Guardiola’s worst league campaigns as a manager