It’s been one week without football and I’m already going mad.
The COVID-19 pandemic we’re currently living through has put on hold pretty much everything I, and most people, am interested in or was looking forward to. No football for at least a month and a half and the postponement of the European Championships until 2021. Cinemas have shut and there’ll be no new releases for the foreseeable future, including No Time to Die, which I was incredibly hyped for. The filming for season 5 of BattleBots has been postponed indefinitely, putting my planned content schedule for the site into a bit of disrepair. And, most tragically of all, they’ve cancelled Eurovision.
Of course it’d easy for me, someone who is in their early 20s with no underlying health conditions, to sit here and rant about the state of the world and how I’m expected to put my life on hold and am just going to be pretty bored for a month or two, over something that I might not even contract. But, the reality of the situation is that this is serious, people are dying, and this is something bigger than the artificial entertainment listed above, strange as it seems. Yes, it’s an annoyance, but it’s a necessary annoyance for the good of everyone. All those things will be back soon enough, so we should all do our bit to make sure as many people as possible can enjoy them when they do return.
So, I thought instead to address the current issue being debated among football fans and professionals such as myself: what happens now? Will the season be voided? Will Liverpool still be champions? Was this all for nothing?
With all elite football in the UK suspended until at least April 30th in an attempt to stay safe from the virus, many people seem to think this ongoing season will be declared null and void, even if they’re saying it in the hope that Liverpool’s thirty year wait for a domestic league title will be suddenly deus ex machina’d out of existence in the name of a good meme. In reality, this seems unlikely, and a fair few figures in the game are calling for the season to be finished in some way, shape or form.
Of course, voiding the season and starting anew in August (hopefully) has its benefits for some clubs. For example, I’m sure Arsenal and Tottenham would both like to pretend this season had never happened and go again fresh in a few months. Same with the clubs flirting with relegation, who not only would have the time to improve their weaker squad areas over the transfer window and attempt to put in a better fight at staying up, but in the long run would also be receiving an extra season’s worth of Premier League revenue, which isn’t a bad reward for being rather shit for most of this campaign.
But where would that leave the teams who have actually been performing well this season? What if this were the only season in their history that Liverpool were to only fail to win twice in the league all season and get no reward for it? What about the European spots? Would they all go to the teams who were already competing in this season’s competition, regardless of Manchester City’s ban and the brilliance of teams such as Leicester City, Wolves and especially Sheffield United in getting themselves into those European places? And individually, does Jamie Vardy’s 19-goal haul this season just get wiped out of the history books? Does all of their hard work just become undone because of something completely out of their control?
To link in Eurovision briefly, as all great analogies should, it was announced that when the 2021 contest goes ahead, none of the songs that were due to be performed this year will be performed next year. Considering that’s 41 songs that a combined total of at least 100+ people have put together specifically to be performed for the competition, that just seems a complete waste of everyone’s time, and completely unfair on those who were due to perform. Yes, there was a considerable amount that can be placed in the ‘shit’ category of music, and some entries I’m hesitant to even consider to be music. But this also means that we’ll never get to see Russia’s masterpiece of an entry performed on the Eurovision stage, and that just brings a tear to my eye.
Anyway, that tangent does have a point, and it’s that if you’ve put all this hard work into a competition, be on the cusp of seeing it through, why just throw it all away as if none of it ever happened? To my mind, the best, and easiest option, would be to resume the season as normal, whenever that may be, find the best alternative schedule for the 2020/21 season, and make all the necessary adjustments that the fixture list for the 2021/22 season can return to normal (if possible).
So, how to go about this? Well, with Euro 2020 turning into Euro 2021 with a proposed start date of June 11th, and the Champions League final to be held on May 29th, that at least gives us a provisional end date to work with. I can’t speak for the rest of European football of course, but I think this already gives a good enough excuse to scrap all FA Cup replays, and the EFL Cup in its entirety. Both these things are becoming increasingly more irrelevant in the modern game, and would also benefit in the easing of fixture congestion in the long run. Any reason to stop handing Man City a free trophy on a silver platter as well. I’ve got stronger opinions on the state of the FA Cup fixture list, but that’s a very convoluted story for another day. And, it should (hopefully) be easy enough to re-schedule the Women’s Euros and FIFA’s new-fangled Club World Cup for 2022, should it come to that, given we’re going to be treated to a winter World Cup that year, because it’s easy enough to re-schedule a massive tournament when there’s money involved at the expense of thousands of workers’ lives, but when a global pandemic has broken out it’s impossible to think such a thing.
Most football people are calling for the season to be finished by June 30th, due to most players’ contracts running down on that date. I can understand the logic in that, but I also think that any exceptions should be made where necessary, which may include more midweek games, the lack of a winter break, and the aforementioned scrapping of certain unnecessary fixtures and cups. Everyone just wants a return to normality right now, and barring another pandemic/world war/fatal meteor strike, I think this is the only way the bigwigs in charge of the game should be using to plan for the future.
Anyway, this has just been a quick little rant from yours truly. Since there’s no escape from the current situation, I decided to try and give this site a vague sense of topical awareness and throw my two cents into the discussion about the future of football. Mainly because I disagree with most of what’s being said, and I just want to be heard. And I hope that day comes soon enough.
But for now, stay safe, sing the chorus of ‘Mr. Brightside’ when you wash your hands, keep your friends and relatives close to you, and have a great day to yourself.