The 2019/20 football season must be completed, say the Sunday Supplement panelists, after professional leagues were postponed due to coronavirus.
On Friday, the Premier League, Sky Bet EFL and Scottish Professional Football League among others announced that all games would be suspended until at least April 3 due to the ongoing concerns around the coronavirus pandemic.
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- How much can change in nine PL games?
- Coronavirus: The view from Europe
It has raised a number of questions about when the season could be completed, including the Champions League and Europa League, or if it should be voided and how this could fit around Euro 2020.
It was a hot topic on Sunday Supplement, and the panel were in agreement that the current campaign must be finished. Read on to hear their thoughts on this unprecedented time for sport...
'For the integrity of the Premier League, it needs to be finished'
David Maddock, Northern Football Correspondent for the Daily Mirror:
"I think it's pretty impossible to resume on April 3, but it was sensible to give themselves time and breathing space to take stock. I think they acted a bit late, but the Premier League did the right thing by going against government advice because the advice was to still continue.
"The Euros will be cancelled - that's pretty clear - and it's more likely to be next summer. It [the coronavirus situation] is very fluid but it then gives time, if games are going to be played and competitions completed, to be finished by the end of June and you wouldn't have to start playing again until May.
"Now, that could coincide apparently with the peak of the problem, but it allows clubs to get the virus clear of their players and you could then play behind closed doors. It's one possibility and I think if it does get played, that's how it will be.
"I actually think the government advice will eventually be you have to stay at home and if there are a lot of people not going out, a lot of them will want to watch sport. So if there is a way of playing games behind closed doors and screening them then that could help and obviously only if it is safe to do that for the players and the people who would have to be involved. You can't put players at risk, you can't put anyone who is in that stadium, even if it's behind closed doors at risk.
"You have to finish it if it's possible. People are saying they should void it to avoid legal action, but it doesn't because if you void it, there's no promotion so what are Leeds going to do? If you complete the competition, there is no argument and there's no legal challenge.
"Also, people want to see it. Liverpool fans want to see that league finished because clearly, they are champions and have already won the league. Manchester City would probably lose two more games even if Liverpool lost all of theirs between now and the supposed end of the season.
"Liverpool should be champions, there's absolutely no doubt about that but you need to finish the league for them to be champions. The only people who might not want to see it are West Ham fans who are just above the relation zone but the reality is for the integrity of the competition, it needs to be finished."
'No clear date for football return'
Rob Harris, Global Sports Correspondent for the Associated Press:
"I think April 3 is very much a holding date at this point as they continue talks. It was only on Thursday night that the Premier League thought they could go ahead with the fixture programme this weekend. 45 minutes later, Arsenal announced Mikel Arteta's positive test, which then triggered the emergency meeting on Friday morning of the Premier League clubs which decided to put football on hold in conjunction with the FA and others.
"Next week, we have some key meetings. UEFA are holding a teleconference with the leagues, the clubs and their own executives. From that, we'll get a clear indication of where they think football is headed in the next few months, potential solutions, when they can outline options for the Champions League, the Euros and other tournaments.
"The Premier League are then holding another meeting on Thursday and we expect that there will be a clear indication of what they anticipate the next week or months looking like. The first week of April looks highly unlikely and there is nothing that indicates now that football will be able to resume in just a few weeks' time. Everything we are being told by the government, by the experts that this is a situation that is only escalating and I don't think there is any clear date now where we will see the return of football.
"It's also an exciting resumption. Rather than starting from a standstill position and the slow move into the season, we go back in with ten games to go, the title is to be decided, promotion and relegation so it's a real statement to say 'we're back'. You've also got something to watch because as we're told to prepare for dystopian dark times where we're self-isolating, people will be desperate for that respite.
"They should complete the season. One of the challenges is the European competitions - the Champions League and Europa League - and whether they find a reconfigured way of getting those games over the line quicker with a changed format.
"As for the Euros, they will probably be delayed by a year. There could be a knock-on effect for the Women's Euros, which could get moved to 2022 because of the logistical challenges of UEFA putting on back-to-back tournaments with 2022 being a clearer year without a World Cup or Olympics. So I expect football to resume and everyone will have something to smile a cheer about again amid all the gloom."
'Football will be ruined if season not completed'
Alyson Rudd, Sports Writer for The Times:
"It all feeds in. If you take away the medical science of coronavirus, UEFA have a duty to postpone Euro 2020 so that all domestic leagues can finish what they need to finish so everyone knows where they stand for the new season because that's the lifeblood of football. There's no point in having a grand tournament if all the players and fans that feed into that don't know where they stand.
"Equally, as these are exceptional times, the big money Premier League have enough cash to make sure they can sort out a plan so the lower division clubs do not go out of business. If they want to term it as a loan so it's eventually paid back, so be it, but there is enough money sloshing around at the elite level of the game to ensure that in these exceptional times, when all economics do not apply, that they can reassure the smaller clubs that they will not go out of business because it will eventually hit them when grassroots clubs and smaller clubs don't exist anymore.
"There is a lot of money in sport and I'm sure clubs are sitting down right now and working out if they pay the staff who are not doing anything, but also do they pay the people who they see once a week or once a fortnight who rely on that income.
"Football will be absolutely ruined if it isn't completed and no one wants that."
'You can't change the rules of competition halfway through'
Martin Samuel, Chief Sports Writer for the Daily Mail:
"It will get completed because you can't bring in an arbitrary way of completing it halfway through the season, so all the ideas of working play-off systems out don't work because you can't change the rules of a competition halfway through - they've got to complete the competition.
"The only thing you could do if you weren't going to complete it is to void the season and there is absolutely no appetite from just about anyone to void the season. No one would want to see that. It will complete but when, no one knows.
"This a completely unprecedented situation and there is money in European football and within the Premier League game that could set up a fund to help clubs through hardship. There are going to be plenty of very well run clubs that are going to struggle and while I appreciate what all the managers are saying from the National League, without a doubt, one of the motivations of the National League will have been money but not for the league itself, it will have been money for those clubs because your most vulnerable clubs are those at that level.
"If you've got no gate money, you're toast in the National League because they're not getting the sponsorships or anything else. I'm not saying it's right or wrong but I can understand why clubs at that level and the league have tried to keep it going. It's a hugely perilous situation for hundreds of clubs."
Coronavirus - key sporting developments
- Premier League, EFL, FA Cup and Women's Super League suspended
- Champions League and Europa League matches postponed
- England Test series in Sri Lanka postponed
- Golf's Players Championship is cancelled
- F1 cancels Australian GP
- Coronavirus: NFL teams suspend travel
- NBA season suspended "until further notice"
- Euro 2020 likely to be postponed by UEFA
- ATP Tour suspended for six weeks
- PRO14 season postponed until further notice