English football is in unchartered territory. As coronavirus is officially declared a pandemic and Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta was confirmed to be infected, the Premier League has made the call to suspend all games until April 4th at the earliest.
The Premier League, FA, EFL and WSL have collectively agreed to postpone the professional game in England
— Premier League (@premierleague) March 13, 2020
It’s not clear now if Liverpool will ever get to lift the Premier League trophy, or how the relegation and promotion conundrum will be settled – or whether the whole season will be struck from the records books.
That’ll go down well on Merseyside.
With so much uncertainty, we’ve come up with six alternative ways the Premier League can reach a conclusion…
1. Finalise the table as it is
Possibly the simplest method of all, but that doesn’t make it any less controversial. Everyone knows Liverpool are champions-in-waiting so there are no qualms there, and most of the current mid-table mediocrity is, well, the usual mid-table mediocrity. Which means the real grievances will lie with those at the foot of the table and in the hunt for a European spot.
As things stand, Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Norwich City would fall through the Premier League trap door, whilst Leicester, Chelsea and Man Utd would snatch the remaining Champions League places – assuming Man City’s European ban is upheld. Wolves and Sheffield United would take a seat at the Europa League table.
Arsenal fans will inevitably take umbrage with this ruling, however, as it will confirm their place below Spurs and a fourth successive season without being able to celebrate St Totteringham’s Day. But at least Spurs will have something to cheer; they may even award themselves a trophy to mark the occasion. Twelve years without silverware will do that to a club…
2. Host crucial play-offs
A potential option would be to decide the most important aspects of the league – the title winners and relegated sides – via a series of play-offs. This is something the suits at Serie A are giving serious consideration to in Italy, so don’t be surprised if their English counterparts are taking notes.
Just imagine the excitement these fixtures would produce; proper do-or-die encounters at the very top of the footballing pyramid. Then just imagine how genuinely “so, so, so, so happy guys, so, so, so happy,” Pep Guardiola would be if his City retained their title this way.
3. Declare the season null and void
The Premier League’s answer to pressing the nuclear button, one option would be to pretend the whole thing never happened and send everyone into self-isolation for the next five months. The new season would start in August as if picking up from the end of the 2018/19 campaign (assuming we haven’t all turned into zombies), meaning Man City would go into it as champions still.
That would make Liverpool being utterly robbed of their title the funniest thing to happen in football since… er… actually, nothing comes remotely close.
UEFA are expected to suspend the Champions League and Europa League, postponing Euro 2020 for a year, but only after a meeting on March 17, claim L’Equipe https://t.co/6FOG4UyvTQ #EURO2020 #Coronavirus #UCL #UEL pic.twitter.com/N33pjauvP2
— footballitalia (@footballitalia) March 12, 2020
4. Suspend the league until the summer
It looks inevitable that Euro 2020 – scheduled to be played out across the entire continent to the delight of Interrailing fans everywhere – will have to be postponed. That would free up the summer months for Premier League fixtures to be completed should it be safe to do so.
There are two distinct benefits to this approach. One, it gives us a cast iron excuse to use beer gardens every weekend. And two, it would be a live experiment for a fundamental shift in the football calendar, moving it to a predominantly summer sport akin to the MLS. After all, let’s face it: would you rather watch football in the sun or sat in freezing rain for months on end?
5. Decide placings by clubs’ social media following
Forget sport, the Premier League is firmly ensconced in the entertainment business these days. It’s all about eyeballs, clicks and views – so what better opportunity for the league to sieve out the least popular clubs they’re currently having to put up with?
Sure, we may end up having to somewhat unfairly wave goodbye to the likes of Burnley and Brighton, but who really cares when it’s all about shareable #content, eh?
6. Settle it Nike Scorpion style
Remember The Cage from Nike’s brilliant “Secret Tournament” campaign back in 2002? Good, because maybe that holds the key to keeping us all happy during these unprecedented times.
To fulfil the remaining fixture list, every Premier League club would need to send their three best players out to a coronavirus-free abandoned oil tanker in the middle of the ocean to battle it out. It’d be a safe haven for players, supporters couldn’t congregate outside, it’d make for brilliant viewing and Eric Cantona would make a far better referee than any of the dreadful officials we currently have to put up with.
What’s not to love?