Coronavirus outbreak: How could the Premier League resume?

Liverpool are two wins away from being crowned champions; Norwich, Aston Villa and Bournemouth are in the relegation zone

The Premier League has been left in limbo after the postponement of the campaign until April 4 at the earliest as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Officials from all 20 clubs will hold an emergency meeting on Thursday to establish plans for the remainder of the season, with one senior source at a Premier League club telling Sky Sports there is a 75 per cent chance this campaign will not be completed.

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Jamie O'Hara tells Sky Sports News how he thinks the Premier League should deal with the indefinite delay to domestic football

Premier League officials have been gathering expert medical advice and will put forward several options to all 20 clubs, with detailed financial and sporting implications.

So, as the clubs try to plot a way forward, what might some of the options be?

Declare the season null and void

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Sky Sports News' Kaveh Solhekol says some Premier League clubs are 'resigned' to the prospect of the season being cancelled completely

The most drastic option. In effect, the entire season so far - approximately three-quarters of an entire campaign - would be wiped from the record books. This would rule out a title winner, qualification for Europe, relegation and so forth - and the new 2020/21 would begin from scratch.

West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady has discussed this option, writing in The Sun:

"There is no dodging the possibility that all levels in the EFL, as well as the Premier League, will have to be cancelled and this season declared null and void because if the players can't play, the games can't go ahead.

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"So what if the league cannot be finished? As games in both the PL and in the EFL are affected, the only fair and reasonable thing to do is declare the whole season null and void."

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor said ending the season would be unfair on the likes of league leaders Liverpool, as well as other teams who have enjoyed good campaigns - including Sheffield United, who are currently on course to qualify for the Europa League in their first season back in the top flight.

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PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor thinks it would be unfair for the Premier League season to end early

"I think it would be unfair, not least on Liverpool but all clubs who are doing well, they would be accused of not knowing if they'd have stayed there or not. It would devalue it," he told Sky Sports News.

"It would seem really weird to start a new season with unfinished business behind us, and it wouldn't look good."

Declare the season null and void - but crown Liverpool champions

Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring Liverpool's equaliser
Image: Liverpool are 25 points clear at the Premier League summit - but are not yet champions

The most glaring issue with the 'null and void' option is the obvious unfairness to Liverpool, 25 points clear at the top of the Premier League and champions in almost all-but name.

Could the Premier League vote for Liverpool to be crowned champions? Would any club vote against such a motion? It's fascinating to speculate on, but impossible to know. Still, it's worth noting that even Brady acknowledged that denying Liverpool the title would be 'robbery'.

But where do you draw the line? Making an exception just for Liverpool would incense many supporters. Manchester City still have to host Liverpool, who have previous of allowing league titles to slip away.

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Anfield Wrap host Neil Atkinson says it's important that the Premier League find a way of completing all matches, for the integrity of the competition

If this "inarguable" case - as The Anfield Wrap's Neil Atkinson put forward on Sky Sports News - was applied to further down the footballing pyramid, should West Brom, just six points clear of Fulham with nine games to play, be granted promotion to the top flight?

The Premier League will want any decision on the league's next steps to be agreed unanimously - as was this week's decision to suspend the season until April 3.

But if disagreements do persist, two-thirds of clubs - 14 - are required to agree to any constitutional change.

Could the current league table be used to finalise the title, CL places and relegation?

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1874 Podcast presenter Dan Bardell says the current season must be completed, and Aston Villa should be given a chance to save themselves from Premier League relegation

In theory, yes. But while Liverpool have been considered champions in waiting for some time, nothing else in the league - from relegation to qualification for Europe and even the Golden Boot - comes close to being conclusive.

To relegate Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Norwich after only 29 matchdays would undoubtedly be considered unfair. But it would be especially harsh on Villa given they have played 28 games and are just two points off Watford in 17th.

Could a final table be extrapolated by an average number of points?

Jack Grealish and Nathaniel Chalobah in action at Villa Park
Image: Aston Villa are currently in the relegation zone but with a game in hand over 17th-placed Watford

Again, in theory yes, but the crux of any league season is that every club plays every other club twice. Using the current league table from 28 or 29 games to declare the final league table would be a leap too far for many.

Aston Villa supporter Dan Bardell from the 1874 Podcast told Sky Sports: "I don't see how they can just relegate the sides currently in the bottom three.

"Everyone needs to be on an even keel, everyone needs to have played the same amount of games. If we were to win that game in hand, we'd go out of the relegation zone. There's still 92 games to be played overall. There's still so many left."

Former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler echoed that view, telling Sky Sports News the current season should be allowed to resume no matter the wait.

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Former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler says the English domestic league seasons must reach a conclusion for fairness, even if it forces a curtailed campaign next year

He said: "Wait until the season can get going again. Not just the Premier League, or the teams coming up. They should, in fairness, wait as long as it takes then play the games.

"If any season is going to be interrupted, it should be next season because everyone starts at a level playing field and knows the implications."

Could the new Premier League season start with 22 clubs?

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Thompson says he finds it difficult to believe the Premier League season will resume in April as planned

It's an idea seemingly gaining traction with reports on Saturday morning suggesting that the new Premier League season could start with 22 clubs, promoting Leeds and West Brom to the current crop of 20.

Such a response would require a substantial reworking of the calendar, perhaps necessitating an earlier start or even the remodelling of the FA Cup and Carabao Cup.

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Allowing for the two sides currently occupying the automatic promotion places in the Sky Bet Championship to go up would rankle with those currently in the play-off zone, and indeed those clubs who still feel that given their remaining fixtures they can still gatecrash the party, as seen on so many previous occasions.

It would also have a knock-on effect on the number of sides promoted from Sky Bet League One, and so on.

How likely is it that the season will resume at the start of April?

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Sky Sports' Kaveh Solhekol says the Premier League's decision to suspend the season was unanimous but there are differing opinions about whether it will eventually be completed

That's the million-dollar question. But by next Thursday, the clubs will know more about the government's plans to ban mass gatherings, including football fixtures, and there should be a clearer understanding of the direction of travel following UEFA's emergency meeting on Tuesday about whether this summer's European Championships will be delayed.

When could the season be extended until?

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Sky Sports News reporter Fraser Dainton explains the knock on effect the coronavirus could have on matchday business

If Euro 2020 is delayed by a year then it would open up the possibility of the current Premier League season being extended into the summer. But the scheduled Euro 2020 final date of July 12 could be used as a marker for the end of the domestic season in Europe too.

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