For a time, it seemed certain that the English Premier League was going to stick to the British “stiff upper lip” mentality, and go ahead with the matches as scheduled. And then players and mangers across the league started testing positive for COVID-19.
The EPL reacted to the news swiftly and decisively by suspending play until April 3rd at the earliest (though it shouldn’t have taken these high-profile cases to see that the writing was on the wall).
It seems increasingly unlikely that the league campaign will be finished. Indeed, Sky Sports are reporting than an unnamed Premier League source believes the likelihood of finishing the season to be a mere 25%. In other words, it is likely that in the coming weeks the suspension will go from temporary to permanent.
This leads to questions. Many questions. And the Premier League are set to address some of these with another emergency meeting on Thursday.
As for the question of whether Liverpool should be crowned champions, early indications seem to be “yes.” With a historically large points gap between first and second, and three-quarters of the season gone, few teams—Tottenham aside—could really argue against this conclusion.
That is the easy question.
It gets much harder when it comes to the questions of relegation, promotion, and Champions League and Europa League spots.
One solution “being discussed” (again, by an unnamed source) to the problem of relegation and promotion is an expanded, 22-team Premier League. Norwich, Aston Villa, and Bournemouth would be spared the drop, and West Brom and Leeds United would earn automatic promotion. The 2020/21 season, if played, would have 5 relegation spots instead of the customary 3.
There seems to be no contingency plan yet for who gets into the European spots.
These leaks from Premier League sources to the media are no accidents. It is likely that the EPL is floating these trial balloons to see how fans will react.
The most partisan and irrational fans (not to mention those with something to gain) will want the season either voided (hi there, Spurs) or finished at all costs (hi there, lovely Liverpool fans).
However, to my eyes, these solutions seem absolutely fair. And a bonus for rival fans is they can taunt our asterisk-laden title win. Moreover, it would give fans a sense of clarity in an otherwise unclear and rapidly changing time.
Stay safe my friends and enjoy the weekend (preferably indoors and sequestered away from others).