Analysis

What will happen to the end of the Premier League season? Here are the options to deal with the coronavirus suspension

Premier League

Can the Premier League season really be cancelled – depriving Liverpool of a title victory?

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The Premier League has announced a suspension of all games until April 4 due the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with the current plan to complete the remaining nine games of the season within the timeframe of a normal season schedule.

However, there are fears that the virus will worsen over the coming weeks and lead to further delay. In such a circumstance, it's not clear what the preferred course of action will be.

Here, we run through some of the ideas that have been discussed.

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Will the Premier League season end with the current standings?

With Liverpool so far ahead in the Premier League standings, one idea is to keep the current standings in the league as they are. Liverpool would be awarded the league title with 82 points, after playing 29 matches.

Given the European ban that Manchester City are facing, the current sides qualifying for the Champions League would be Liverpool, Leicester City (53 points), Chelsea (48 points) and Manchester United (45 points). Wolves and Sheffield United (both on 43 points) would be granted the automatic Europa League places. Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal sit next in the standings on 41 and 40 points respectively. (Confused? Check out our simple Premier League Long Table!)

Awarding the title early would be understandable if a little controversial; giving teams European spots nine games early would be contentious too, especially given the close proximity in which teams currently sit within the league. But that’s nothing compared to the relegation battle.

At current, Aston Villa (25 points) and Norwich City (21 points) sit in the bottom two. West Ham United, Watford and Bournemouth all have 27 points above them; Brighton & Hove Albion have 29. Cancelling the league now would relegate Bournemouth on goal difference and would potentially be the most controversial decision the league has ever made.

Will the Premier League season be delayed until coronavirus slows down? 

With China showing signs of slowing the spread of COVID-19 through aggressive measures, there is still hope that the UK will recover sooner rather than later.

If the current crisis were to pass in the next few weeks, it could still be feasible to squeeze the rest of the Premier League season before the start of the next one. 

There may be more light shed on this particular idea next week, when UEFA convene to discuss whether Euro 2020 will go ahead as planned next summer. If the European Championships are pushed back to the summer of 2021, the Premier League - along with other European leagues - would have more time to complete. 

As it stands, the Premier League is only suspended until April 4.

Will more Premier League matches be played behind closed doors?

With selected European leagues such as Serie A playing matches behind closed doors and even the Champions League and Europa League banning crowds from matches, one idea would be to finish the Premier League season as planned - just without fans attending matches.

This could prove unpopular, though matches may be broadcast free of charge should such a situation arise. Playing games behind closed doors has been seen by some as the best option, should most of the country have to self-isolate, though with staff and players at football clubs now testing positive for the virus, it may be difficult to carry out. 

Whether the Premier League restart the season later on though - and open with closed-door matches as a precaution - remains to be seen.

Will the Premier League season be decided by play-offs or mini-leagues?

Some teams clearly have a lot to play for this season - others not so much. One idea would be to settle the stakes that are still relevant by introducing play-offs or mini-leagues.

Perhaps the bottom four could all play each other with the winner being given survival - or maybe the teams hovering around the Champions League places could all play knockout games for places. 

Whilst this would cut a number of fixtures though, it does pose questions of fairness. Regardless, with only nine games to go for most clubs, does a mini-league or play-off really settle anything in a more satisfying way than just completing remaining fixtures? 

Such a situation is only being discussed right now on social media and is unlikely to be implemented.

Will the 2019/20 Premier League season become null and void?

The league is seen as fair and equal, given that all teams play each other twice, home and away, over the course of the season. Should the campaign have to end prematurely however, this throws up the question as to whether the 2019-20 season should be scrapped entirely.

With such a distraction midseason, the implications are mammoth for many of the clubs. Coronavirus is affecting players - there are questions to be raised about fitness and whether we treat this as just another injury.

Whilst many are calling for the season to be deemed null and void by the Premier League - so that we can just start again come August - it does seem a little unfair on sides that were achieving things before all of this struck. Can an end to the league really be called that doesn't see Liverpool be crowned champions?

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