Coronavirus – English Football Suspended until at least 30 April
Posted on March 20, 2020
Unprecedented times call for unprecedented actions. The impact of Coronavirus is being felt throughout the world. The impact of the virus across the globe is akin to war-times. Football seems trivial in the grand scheme of things but a number of football fans have been asking many questions around the completion of the current season.
Following a number of high profile meetings across FIFA, UEFA, the English Football League and the Premier League, the harsh reality is nobody knows when the game will commence again. Nobody knows for sure how, when and if the football season will be completed. The situation is also changing very quickly day by day.
Here we look at some of the questions being asked.
What is the current situation?
There have been some big decisions made already, so there are some things we know for certain.
- The 2019-2020 season has been delayed indefinitely. Professional football in England is on hold until 30th April at the earliest.
- EURO 2020 has been delayed a year until 2021.
- Copa America has been put back a year.
- FIFA’s new Club World Cup has been put on hold.
- European Under-21 Championship will be delayed to 2022.
- Other domestic leagues have been postponed across the world.
The decision to move EURO 2020 was hugely significant. It is recognised the priority for the European Domestic Football leagues to finish. By moving the tournament back a year, it allows more scope for the leagues to be completed.
Premier League Clubs agreed unanimously that they want the current campaign to finish. There is an end date which has been loosely banded around which is 30th June.
What is significant about 30th June as an end date?
There are a number of reasons.
- Player’s contracts usually run to this date, meaning some players will be released from their clubs on this date. Alternatively, some players have already agreed to join new clubs on July 1st.
- The same applies for sponsors and kit suppliers. Liverpool for example, have agreed a new contract with Nike from 1st June. This means Liverpool will potentially be wearing Nike kits to lift the Premier League trophy, rather than New Balance, which they have been wearing all season.
- FIFA would need to change their rules if the season extended beyond 30th June.
- 30th June is the final date for when football seasons finish across Europe. This allows teams to prepare for the following season to start again in August.
What still needs to be completed?
Looking at the Premier League, there are nine full rounds of fixtures remaining. With FA Cup, Europa League and Champions League to be played, it could potentially mean the busiest teams playing game over consecutive days. Cup competitions would need to be changed with European tournaments played over one leg, rather than the usual two-legs.
There are also nine full rounds left in the Championship, and slightly more in League 1 and League 2.
It is felt if the season re-started again in May, the season could just about be completed before the end of the June. This is why 30th April date is so significant.
Will the football season start in May?
Nobody knows for sure but here are some of the arguments for and against.
- There could be scope to play games behind closed doors, minimising the further spread of the virus.
- It all depends on what happens in the next 5-6 weeks and what changes and restrictions the Government places. The Premier League intend to start from 30th April, unless specifically blocked by the Government. The Government will be aware of the benefits on the nation for it to be completed.
- Football is massively popular in the UK so to start it again would have huge social benefit. It would help restore morale across the country. As a result there is merit to start as soon as feasibly possible.
- It must not be forgotten the huge contribution the Premier League generates in tax revenue.
- The pandemic is expected to reach it’s peak in June, so this date may just be too soon.
- Even if matches were played behind closed door, medical professionals would need to be present. With the NHS stretched as it is, it may not be feasible to take so many medical workers away from hospitals or clinics.
- Fans will still turn out around the stadiums, even if the matches were played behind closed doors. This would increase the risk of the spread of the disease, plus require extra policing.
It remains to be seen when the football season will commence again, but there is a keen willingness to finish this season, before next season starts.
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