There are at least four options up for discussion as the powers that be negotiate what happens when football resumes after the coronavirus – whenever that may be.
The Premier League and EFL yesterday confirmed that all fixtures are suspended until at least April 3, but with the pandemic yet to reach its peak, it remains uncertain when it will be safe to hold games in front of crowds again in the UK and Europe.
There are concerns that a delay – or rescheduled games – might go past the June 30 administrative cut off for this season, which would pose questions about what happens with expiring contracts and the summer transfer window.
So other plans have been mentioned too and discussed on BBC’s Football Focus, on Radio 5 Live, TalkSPORT and in the national and regional newspapers today – day one of the suspension.
Stoke City currently sit 17th in the Championship – three points above the relegation zone – with nine games unplayed.
Plan 1) Delay the season
Tim Cahill: “The thing about delaying it and just focusing on the league and forgetting all cup competitions, forgetting about international games for next season and maybe making sure you can finish the season, whether it’s Liverpool winning the title or clubs getting promoted or relegated… it seems the most logical situation.
“On top of that, forget cup and international matches for now and just concentrate on the league.”
Dion Dublin: “You have to finish the season, you have to.”
Brighton chief executive Paul Barber: “Our intention must be to complete the fixtures but we have to put people’s health first and at the moment it is really hard to imagine putting on a football game in the Premier League in three weeks’ time. It’s really hard to imagine that given the scenario we’re in.”
Jermaine Jenas: “We have to think smaller right now. Get rid of this season’s cup competitions and finish the league when we can, even if it means moving the Euros to 2021.”
Plan 2) Stage play-offs
This has been mooted in Italy.
Italian football president Gabriele Gravina: “We hope that the season can be concluded as planned, because if we do resume on April 3, there are certain windows to make up for these postponed games.
“I took it upon myself to launch the idea of play-offs and play-outs, helping to respect the values of sporting competition.
“It would involve the four top teams in the play-off for the Scudetto and the last four in the play-outs to decide relegation. The FIGC will then indicate to UEFA who will participate in the European competitions next season.”
Paul Barber: “If we are going to go down the play-off route, I hope that starts from 16th and not 15th!”
Plan 3) Current positions stand
Chris Waddle: “Finish the season as it is and deal with it. (If teams have games in hand…) tough!”
Dion Dublin: “There would be uproar. Players would go mental.”
Paul Barber: “If we were to freeze the league it would be incredibly unjust not to award Liverpool the title. I think everyone in the game appreciates what a fantastic season they’ve had and what a wonderful team they are.
“So that for me would be very unjust – but equally it would be very unjust for teams to be relegated when there were still eight, nine or 10 games to play in the Premier League. The financial consequences for those teams would be very difficult.
“Equally it would be unjust if Leeds and West Brom were not promoted because we know how hard it is to get out of the Championship. We know how hard it is to get even to this stage of the season in the top two. It would be very cruel.”
Barber went on to suggest that an expanded Premier League – with no relegation and limited promotion – is a possible option in this scenario.
Plan 4) Declare season null and void
West Ham vice-chairwoman Karren Brady: “As games in both the Premier League and in the EFL are affected, the only fair and reasonable thing to do is declare the whole season null and void. Who knows who would have gone down or come up if the games have not actually been played in full?
“A huge blow to Liverpool who might be robbed of their first title in 30 years.”
Jon Walters: “Cancel the Premier League and EFL. Award Liverpool the PL title – realistically no one is catching them. No relegations. Still three promotions and if too it’s tight to decide who, have behind closed doors play-off matches in the next couple of months.
“Most owners and people linked financially with clubs will be calling for season to continue as it will always come down to money.
“But unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures and there needs to be leadership in the Premier League and EFL who will make a decision!
“Unfortunately most decisions will come down to money. Take anyone’s opinion who is linked at all with a club with a pinch of salt. I have no links whatsoever.”
Phil Thompson: “There’s still ramifications even if you do that. What do you do with the teams in the Champions League positions? Because Leicester City are quite healthily in third, they’d be extremely worried if you went to the teams that finished in the top four last season.”
Paul Barber: “We don’t want to go down this route. Every league starts with an expectation of completing all 38 fixtures as it is in the Premier League and we really want to do that.”