The season had already descended into shambles for Aston Villa long before Covid-19 waded in to suspend football for the foreseeable future. We’re not even one weekend into the postponements and I am climbing the walls. It’s like the entire season has gone to VAR, where the VAR is Jon Moss. Or worse still, Kevin Friend.
The FA, Premier League and EFL all harbour fanciful hopes that the suspension will last until 4th April, but with the virus not predicted to peak for another 12 (or more) weeks, that seems wildly optimistic. Even if Euro 2020 was also suspended, postponed or cancelled, getting the season finished before the end of June would be a mighty tall order. That’s assuming we were over the worst even as soon as the end of April, which is in itself equally unlikely.
So what can be done? Can we just cancel the season, as suggested by that great football thinker Karren Brady, declare it null and void? Can we really deny Liverpool a title which is already theirs, to all intents and purposes?
There are a number of problems with adopting such an approach, not least the implications for lower league teams such as Leeds, West Brom, Coventry and others who stand to gain hugely in financial terms by promotion. To cancel the season would prevent the promotion of these clubs (and others), not to mention the numerous other clubs still in play-off, and indeed automatic promotion, contention.
Of course, it would suit clubs such as Villa who are at risk of relegation, and all the financial implications of such a scenario. And on the flip side, what about the clubs chasing European places? Sheffield United would be particularly aggrieved after a stellar season spent mainly in the top six. Would the likes of Tottenham or Arsenal stand idly by while a cancelled season would deprive them of vital European football? I think not.
Another option suggested would be to award the title to Liverpool and have no relegation this season, but to promote the current top two in the Championship – Leeds and West Brom. This would expand the Premier League by two, but it has been proposed that either five teams would be relegated next season, or four each over the following two seasons to get back down to 20 teams.
This has some merit, as currently none of the bottom three has been cut adrift (indeed, Villa have a game in hand and would get out of the relegation places were they to win it, unlikely as that may be). And what then for the Championship clubs in the play-off places, or even those just outside but still in with a shout, particularly given Leeds’ propensity for choking down the final straight.?
Another idea mooted among the media would be to end the season now with the table as it stands in each division. Ok, but how to account for Villa’s game in hand? And again, what about the clubs in play-off contention or those just outside?
None of these scenarios is seriously palatable – the only acceptable solution is for the season to be somehow completed before the end of June (when many players would be out of contract, so couldn’t be expected to play beyond that). But as mentioned, that’s a very long shot at this stage, playing behind closed doors or not.
To be honest (and this falls very firmly in the ‘Things I NEVER thought I would EVER say’) I have to agree with Karren Brady. This is a fluke event of unprecedented proportions, something we might never again experience in our lifetimes (we certainly won’t if Covid-19 kills most of us) and going forward, the football authorities will have to build in some provision for this kind of event in future competitions.
For instance, a season might be considered ‘completed’ once 75% of games have been played by the majority of teams. All clubs would know the lie of the land and sign up for it before the season starts, but there would, of course, be losers and winners under such a system.
How should the season end?
Cancel the season - null & void. Start again in August. Maybe.
End now. Liverpool win title, no relegation - Leeds/WBA up.
End the season now with the table as it stands. Villa down.
None of this helps us at the moment, and unfortunately, we are in the position of playing a waiting game to see how quickly this settles down (or not) before considering the logistics of playing the season out.
I genuinely can’t see it happening though, so we need to contemplate the least-unsatisfactory way of squaring things off for 2019/20.
What are your thoughts, fine folks of Vital Villa? Have your say by voting in the poll, or add your tuppence worth in the forum discussion.