The Premier League’s shortsighted, last-minute decision to postpone this weekend’s matches “out of respect for Queen Elizabeth II” has created a mess that continues to grow. The headache of having to find space in the schedule to fit in a full match week is already a daunting prospect, but there are doubts about next weekend’s fixtures as well.
It’s widely expected that the Queen’s funeral will be held next weekend, and nearly all London area police will be needed for said funeral. With the large police presence the Premier League lines up for their matches, this places the three fixtures scheduled for next weekend in London in a precarious position.
League officials are supposedly determined to have next week’s games go ahead rather than have two full match weeks to fit into a packed schedule later on, but having three matches in doubt due to a lack of police availability throws a wrench in that plan.
According to The Athletic, one solution being considered is switching all three matches to away matches. So, in this scenario, Liverpool would host Chelsea on Saturday rather than traveling to London, and the Jan 23rd meeting would have Liverpool playing at Stamford Bridge rather than at Anfield.
The Athletic report does mention that this is likely to be very unpopular among the clubs involved, especially those who would have to pivot to hosting a match with less than a week’s notice. The Liverpool Echo gives a brief rundown of the many reasons this would be difficult for LFC and the Merseyside police in their breakdown of this possibility.
It’s hard to gauge whether this is a serious proposal, and how likely it is the Premier League would implement it if it is serious. But, even if it’s not serious, it’s quite unclear what the preferred solution will be. The sad truth is there truly is no good option here. Postponing more matches, switching London fixtures to away fixtures, and playing at neutral sites (Dublin has been mentioned as a possibility) are all far from perfect solutions that create a host of issues.
What’s incredibly frustrating is it feels as though the Premier League didn’t even consider this challenge when they decided to postpone this weekend’s matches despite all other sports going ahead. They easily could have played, done similar tributes to those seen at rugby and cricket matches across the country, and then postponed matches next week if necessary.
There were some reports floating around on Twitter yesterday that the decision to postpone this weekend was out of fear certain fanbases (namely Liverpool) would make a mockery of any tributes and create a humiliating controversy. While it’s not hard to imagine that happening, it is hard to imagine how kicking the can down the road prevents that in any way.
Liverpool fans, who have long shown their distaste for the monarchy and English nationalism of any sort, are certain to make their feelings known at any tribute for the Queen. Whether this weekend, next weekend, or when matches resume after the international break, the reaction to any tribute is going to be the same.
All the Premier League has done by postponing matches is delay a reaction that is seemingly inevitable at the cost of creating enormous scheduling headaches. The only humiliation in this situation is that which the Premier League have created for themselves.