Football leagues at every level across Europe are wrestling with the question of how to end domestic seasons disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Solutions of all sorts—ranging from voided campaigns up to commitments to playing fixtures deep into autumn—have been floated and implemented across the continent.
Europe’s governing football body, UEFA, has stepped in to assist, ruling Thursday that Champions League and Europa league qualification can be decided without another ball being kicked. Each footballing nation will be left to decide which clubs would be eligible for next year’s competitions as long as the procedure is “based on sporting merit in the 2019-20 domestic competitions,” according to a statement.
While it expressed a preference to play out the remaining matches, UEFA has also suggested using a points-per-game average derived from the fixtures that have been played to date as the method of deciding the final tables. However, the exact mechanism for deciding the places has been left up to the each footballing nation, with the only stipulation being that the process be “based on objective, transparent and non-discriminatory principles”.
The decision is a boon for league-leaders, Liverpool and should put paid to domestic talk of completely voiding the season. Racking up points at a clip of 2.83 per game, the Reds were streets ahead of 2nd-placed Manchester City’s 2.04 per game mark.
However, there are some big clubs who would miss out on Champions League places were this points average method used, including Manchester United. Furthermore, the likes of Arsenal, who had been surging up the table prior to the suspension of play, in addition to Tottenham would both miss out on European qualification entirely.
Smaller clubs such as Leicester City and Sheffield United—currently set for Champions League and Europa League qualification respectively—would come out as obviously winners, no longer having to worry about outlasting better-resourced clubs in the run-in.
Regardless of how they fight it out further down the table, the floor has been set for how the season will end, which should comfort Liverpool supporters. Our maiden Premier League crown won’t be taken from us, thus decrees UEFA. The only question remaining now is how to put together a championship parade over Zoom.