How to sort matters out if games are being postponed wholesale…

By Tony Attwood

It is perhaps typical of football in England that despite the raging pandemic there seem to be no plans at all as to what to do if clubs can’t complete the season.

Fifa has already given full permission to its friends in Africa to carry on running their international tournament in the coming weeks, and of course the continuance of the continent’s biggest event is of prime concern for both the organisers and the people of Africa who have a chance to see their heroes compete.

I can fully understand why Fifa and the countries of Africa want this competition to go ahead, but there is a chance that players, officials and fans will return to their own countries around the world with another strain of the virus.  Maybe not, but it is possible.

And then what?  Is the player allowed back into England?  How long is the isolation period?  These are rather interesting questions.

Meanwhile, in England, the number of positive tests continues to increase; the latest estimate that I have seen is 2,024,700 people in England currently having coronavirus (COVID-19). which is about 1 in 25 people.

So that is maybe one man in each Premier League squad.   Except that the virus doesn’t work like this.  If someone in the squad has the virus, it is likely that by the time he tests positive, several others will have it, and they will be passing it on.

Indeed there have been reports that “Manchester United alone had 19 confirmed Covid cases across players and staff following an outbreak at Carrington”.

Therefore questions start to arise.  At what level of Covid infection can a club call the game off?  Is it really below 13 players and a goalkeeper within the full first-team squad (including any youth players who have already been called up for the first-team squad)?   Teams who have been arguing for postponements have been doing so when they certainly have more than this minimum number available.

And then what?  What if games start to be postponed again?   Do we do as before and let the season run on and on until we’ve got through all the games?

And what happens if the virus spreads in the world cup?  The Premier League is scheduled to pause from November 12 until December 26, 2022, to allow the world cup to happen.   Players then need to come back and have a couple of weeks’ readjustment time.

But if the virus is still spreading, what then?  Do we just go on playing and playing knowing that the next round of internationals will start almost at once because the next European tournament runs just 18 months later, from 14 June to 14 July 2024?

It is all getting a bit crazy because in the words of the song “there’s no time to think”.

The Africa Cup of Nations has already been delayed by 12 months due to the pandemic and would struggle to cope with another postponement, with just 18 months to go until the next tournament.

Other competitions are also dealing with Covid-related problems. The Premier League recorded a record 42 positive cases this week, the most since they began testing last year.

Reports suggest Manchester United alone had 19 confirmed Covid cases across players and staff following an outbreak at Carrington on Monday.

The only way around all the possible problems is to institute a rule which says that all competitions must stick to their original schedule and finish on time.  If they cannot then trophies are awarded on a pro-rata basis.

Now this is not too difficult for a league, as we can see from the current state of the Premier League.  We simply see what the number of points is per game (PPG) at the moment the league stops, and then the prizes are awarded.  It might, for future years, be argued that there is a minimum number of games to be played for this to happen.  Maybe 19 – which is half the Premier League season.

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts PPG
1 Manchester City 21 17 2 2 53 13 40 53 2.52
2 Liverpool 20 12 6 2 52 18 34 42 2.10
3 Chelsea 21 12 7 2 45 16 29 43 2.05
4 Tottenham Hotspur 18 10 3 5 23 20 3 33 1.83
5 Arsenal 20 11 2 7 33 25 8 35 1.75
6 West Ham United 20 10 4 6 37 27 10 34 1.70
7 Manchester United 19 9 4 6 30 27 3 31 1.63

As we can see if the league was suspended now Tottenham would beat us into fourth spot, and West Ham would gain the second Europa spot.  If there are three Europa spots (one for the Europa Conference) or some other manipulation by Uefa, we simply include the next club.

This would also be valid for relegation.  The only competitions we could not fix this way would be the cup competitions, and they could either be abandoned or carried over – that carrying over would be far less of a hassle than it is for the leagues.

It is all rather simple.


Footnote: Since publishing this piece we have head that Liverpool have asked for the league cup game against Arsenal to be postponed.


4 Replies to “How to sort matters out if games are being postponed wholesale…”

  1. What exactly is Liverpool’s situation that it is asking for a postponement? Surely losing players to the African Cup of Nations can’t be used as an excuse as we are losing players, too.

    Pardon me but given that we weren’t allowed to postpone our opening game this year and we have regularly been given the short end of the stick when the league makes decisions, I can’t help but be suspicious of these things.

  2. We too play our game without some of our first team players as a result of COVID-19. Liverpool should stop bringing excuses of match postponment.

  3. In relation to this, Gary Neville has noted that it is usually only away teams that are asking for postponements. Surely there can’t be anything untoward happening??!

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