Football season does not need to be abandoned because of coronavirus - just renamed

Liverpool can forget their fretting – and everyone calling for this season to be written off can pipe down.

Sunday, 22nd March 2020, 1:30 pm
Updated Sunday, 22nd March 2020, 6:04 pm
No match today - nor in the near future / Picture: Getty

The solution is simple; arguments unnecessary. We don't need to abandon this season, declare it null, void or both. We just need to rename it.

It does not have to be the 2019-20 season. It can quite easily and smoothly become the 2019-21 season, and then no-one can have any complaints about its winners and losers.

Since it became obvious football was going to be hit with blanket postponements in the coronavirus spread, it's been the question on the lips of fans at all levels of the game – what the hell do we do with the season played so far if we can't finish it?

Quite understandably, supporters of the many sides in line to win leagues have led the calls for the campaign merely to be suspended, and you can't blame them.

We owe it to those clubs not to write off the three-quarters of a season played. Pretending it didn't happen and starting from scratch when we're all fit and the world is clear of coronavirus just doesn't feel right.

It's very different from the last time a football season was started and not finished – in 1939. Then, the outbreak of the second world war came just a couple of weeks after the 39-40 campaign had begun, so no-one had invested too much time and energy into it; no-one could claim they were certs for a title or promotion.

This situation is very different. It was the second weekend of March before professional, semi-pro and amateur leagues introduced a mass ban on games going ahead.

Some said we were far enough through to declare teams' present positions their finishing positions. But that doesn't strike me as very far or satisfactory either. And I can't imagine the various league-leading sides would feel the same sense of triumph from such a conclusion as they would if finishing top at the end of a full season.

As I saw someone (I can't remember who) put it, Liverpool would be Premier League champions but they'd always have an asterisk after their name as far as their 19-20 glory was concerned.

No better is the idea that points per game gained so far should be used to calculate final tables. A league season requires all teams to play all other teams, and with good reason.

You can't judge all teams equally if some have avoided the need to play the best sides while others have been denied the chance to play the worst.

It seems to me we are in this state of lockdown for the long haul. Who knows how long it was last? No-one can answer that with any certainty.

So why don't we allow for the fact football could be off for a year? Yes, the possibility that we may have 12 months of Saturday afternoons and Tuesday evenings when all we have to watch is reruns of old classics; all we have to follow on Twitter is Premier League Twitter account holders play noughts and crosses with one another. Desperate stuff, but it's not impossible to think it could go on that long.

As things stand, football is off until April 30 at the earliest and the FA have said the season can go beyond June 1, which would be the normal cut-off date for league and cup competitions everywhere.

If virus restrictions stay in place into May, it's safe to say we'll struggle to get the 19-20 season finished, even in the summer.

So at that point, the authorities should be brave and say the whole thing can be delayed by 12 months. At that point, we plan for a restart around February or March next year. Everyone eventually resumes where they left off, and leagues and cups are played to their right and proper conclusion.

Liverpool will win the Premier League and be able to look back on a proper 38-game campaign; Leeds and West Brom will probably be promoted to the top division with no-one able to say they might not have made it, and up and down the country and the leagues, teams will either have earned promotion or deserved to go down.

If the season is made a two-year affair and a resumption is possible before a 12-month wait is up, fine. You give everyone another pre-season and have longer to complete the season.

You could even finish it earlier to give international players the chance to prepare more thoroughly for a Euro 2021 tournament that will be surely be the biggest celebration of football seen in very many decades.

If we keep calm and do this properly – or rather, if the football authorities do, and hopefully if UEFA led the way then all nations, at least in Europe, would follow the same path – we will have lost nothing. No-one will have missed a prize they deserved, and no-one will have been handed one they didn't.

It might be a long wait for proper football to be return, but there are very many old matches in the BBC and Sky archives and on Youtube, and plenty of good deeds and useful things that footballers and fans can be doing to help those in need in a time of crisis in the meantime.

Coronavirus will kill people, but waiting for this football season to resume won't.

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