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
Last Updated: 19/03/20 4:12pm
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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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
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.
"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.
"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
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.
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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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?
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.