When there’s a global pandemic sweeping the globe, no matter how much we miss the beautiful game, sports including football are no longer a priority.
The COVID-19 situation has forced extreme measures to combat the crisis, which includes lockdowns enforced in countries around the world and for now, the majority of leagues and competitions around the world being frozen in time.
Just like all the other major domestic leagues in Europe, the English Premier League has been suspended. At the moment, uncertainty remains about when or even if the 2019-20 season will be completed, although conversations remain ongoing and lots of options have been on the table for discussion. No decisions are being taken lightly and whichever solutions are eventually reached, they could are likely to have a huge impact on football.
Ending The Premier League Prematurely
Any decision to end the season now and as things currently stand in the table would be fraught with problems. Although some would feel that given their huge points advantage, Liverpool would be quite justified in being handed the Premier League title, others believe that such a decision would still be unfair. The Reds had not actually crossed the finishing line in terms of points, therefore theoretically, they could still hit a slump and blow the title in their remaining games.
Likewise, practically every other team would be effected were such a decision taken. Those currently in the bottom three and battling against relegation would argue that by ending the season as things currently stand, they would be unfairly prejudiced. For example, Aston Villa have played one game less than any of their closest rivals following their appearance in the League Cup Final. They might claim that winning that game in hand could take them out of the relegation zone.
— Guaita (@vguaita13) April 5, 2020
European positions are also effected, and this is where even Palace would make a strong case for resuming the season, when the UK Government decides it is safe to do so. Currently sat in 11th position, yet with 9 games left to play and having hit a run of 3 consecutive wins prior to the lockdown, the Eagles were still considered outside Premier League betting contenders to clinch one of the remaining Europa League spots.
The key issue with ending the season prematurely and maintaining current standings, according to many experts, is that clubs could launch legal proceedings to challenge such a decision. Loss of revenues would be a key factor, with clubs potentially claiming for damages and losses, while players and staff could claim breach of contracts, with many these days tied to performance and achievements, which would not be fulfilled and beyond their control.
Legal Ramifications For The 2019/20 Season
In one of their most recent press releases, following a series of meetings that involved all clubs and stakeholders, the Premier League insisted that their aim is for competition to resume. However, they also made it clear that this would only be when “safe and appropriate” to do so, based on advice from the UK Government and guidance from medical agencies. Football will not restart at the beginning of May, as had previously been speculated.
The Premier League is keen to “maintain the integrity” of competitions by ensuring that remaining fixtures are played. This would also avoid a whole host of legal issues, given that ending the 2019-20 campaign prematurely, or voiding the season, could leave them exposed to challenges for compensation by clubs and players. Nevertheless, such a stance could mean that football might not resume until beyond the summer and even September.
The Premier League’s overriding priority is to aid the health and wellbeing of the nation and our communities. The 2019/20 season will only return when it is safe and appropriate to do so.
— Premier League (@premierleague) April 3, 2020
Such a delay also poses many problems when it comes to contractual obligations, given that in England, the standard date for the expiry of contracts is typically 30th June each year. Amidst their own discussions, both UEFA and FIFA have suggested short obligatory contract extensions, aimed at ensuring all competitions can be resumed with existing squads. This would be accompanied by changing the dates of transfer windows.
The only current first team squad members at Palace with contracts due to expire on 30th June, according to data published at transfermarkt, are defender Scott Dann and goalkeeper Stephen Henderson. Under the UEFA and FIFA proposals, both players would be expected to temporarily extend their contracts until the 2019-20 season is complete. The same would apply to players loaned out by the Eagles, who would need to remain at their current clubs.
There is no easy way for football to resume and at the moment, discussions regarding the best options will remain ongoing and with multiple options on the table. It’s a very complicated situation and while the COVID-19 crisis continues, obviously, the importance of football is merely a secondary consideration, compared to the health and wellbeing of the general population.