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What Now for the Premier League?

It’s a question which football fans, players and officials the world over are asking and no-one seems to know the answer.

That is because there isn’t an answer, as of yet.

Of course, last Friday’s decision to halt the Premier League until at least early April due to the COVID-19 pandemic was as predictable as it was correct.

It’s just what happens now which is on the lips of so many.

There are divided views on this.

Some fans say if the campaign has to be halted now in its entirety, that the title should be awarded to runaway leaders Liverpool, the current positions should be classed as final (regardless of games in hand) and the clubs in the bottom three relegated – clearly an unrealistic and unfair proposition.

Others, like West Ham chief executive Karren Brady, believe the campaign should be declared null and void if it cannot be completed. That would actually suit her club, who remain marginally above the relegation zone after their last outing.

That, again, while slightly more digestible than the former suggestion, is far from ideal either.

The pending decision of UEFA to postpone Euro 2020 until next summer may bide some time for English football’s top flight to be completed. Although, senior figures within the game know that resuming the English league season in early April, when the initial suspension will be reviewed, will be almost impossible.

So can the season be completed? These are deeply worrying times for football – and for world sport – which is having to face up to a period of disruption and dislocation unprecedented in peacetime.

Whichever option is decided upon, it will likely leave the Premier League open to legal challenge from clubs either aiming for a European spot, fighting relegation or seeking promotion to the top flight.

Yet, this is a phenomenon out of the control of any one body or organisation, and, if the pandemic worsens, surely any court ruling would agree that football’s governing body has little choice but to declare the season null and void.

Under those circumstances, it looks increasingly likely that going down the legal route would fall on deaf ears and that last weekend’s Manchester derby may have been the penultimate set of Premier League 2020 highlights we see this season.

It may not come to that, of course.

It may not come to a legal and ethical bunfight. In the best-case scenario, Euro 2020 would be postponed until next year and there be many more matches to excite us in the months ahead.

As it stands, questions abound but resolutions are unclear as football shuts down for who knows how long.

One thing we can be all agreed on though is health must come first.

It is still premature to ask for certainty about what will happen and all the questions are tendered with an acknowledgement there are many more important problems for the country to consider.

Right now, there are far more important matters than football to concern us.

It really does have to be all or nothing, however! Complete the season in its entirety and determine all finishing places, or consign 2019/20 to the history books as the season that never was.

Paul Pogba has failed to be in complete match fitness for most of this Premier League season
Paul Pogba applauding during a Man United match on December 22, 2019

However, on a cynical note, to end this report, while it is a time for coming together, perhaps Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba would gain more respect from this SBOTOP observer if he had shown more of an urgency to return to fitness this season rather than pledge financial support to Unicef to help children affected by coronavirus.

After all, rather than his fortune, the money really is coming from what his club has been paying him to do (very little) since last August!

 

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