The outbreak of a pandemic has caused panic across the planet, and this is very serious stuff. People are dying and will continue to die. It has led to panic buying of sanitisers, face masks, pasta and toilet roll in supermarkets up and down the country. It is a dire situation, and will likely get a lot worse before it gets better.
The governments of Europe have taken to cancelling large gatherings, in order to socially distance us from each other. This has resulted in the cancelling of football matches across the continent and it will likely go on for several months.
As a consequence, leagues have come to a halt in countries all over, including our own. The question now is what do we do to bring the leagues to a conclusion? There are only 4 possible scenarios that could come in to play for this unforeseen circumstance.
“Null and Void”. The league table is thrown out and we start again in August with no-one declared as champions. This is the preferred option of the Zombie hoards and those down Gorgie direction. The one problem seems to be that prize money for the league won’t be distributed and there could be no European football next season. A complete non starter then.
“Play to a conclusion”. When all is deemed safe once more, games could recommence until a champion and cup winners can be recorded. This would allow European finals to go ahead when safe too. The downside of this option is that it would likely be way too late to allow a start to next years European games as we may be months down the line before it is safe to play games again. I can’t see the sponsors of the Champions League being happy to see no competition next season. As with the null and void option this falls down as soon as the contracts of players come into consideration. Players could be out of contract, new players could be bought. The whole player contract situation could get so complicated that it wouldn’t work in reality.
“Play behind closed doors”. Games in the vast majority of leagues could recommence behind closed doors and play competitions to a finale. As long as teams don’t suffer wholesale infections then this could indeed work and would be my personal favourite option. The problem behind this appears to be coming from the players, who feel that due to the risk to themselves in a contact sport, is too great to be forced upon them.
“Award the leagues to the current leaders”. If you take the Scottish game as an example of this option then Celtic would be deemed champions being 13 points clear with only 8 games remaining. Despite the clamour from the team in 2nd place, Celtic being crowned champions, would be just and correct. The argument would be that teams haven’t all played the same number of games and as a consequence the fairest option would be to work out the average points won in games played so far, and use that as the expected points tally.
This is by far the fairest reflection of the league situation as it stands and would bring the leagues to a conclusion with immediate effect. The European positions would be locked in for when the games can start next season and relegation and promotion could be ascertained too.
Hearts would be the team worst effected as they would be the team relegated. They are not in a position where they couldn’t play themselves out of trouble against the teams in their vicinity in the league. A simple solution would be to allow a one year reconstruction with no relegation and two teams coming up. The top two teams from the Championship would come up and the teams would play twice before a split of two groups of 7. This would result in a league of 38 games – the same as we currently have, but without teams being punished at the bottom of the table.
UEFA are meeting tomorrow for discussions on the current situation in the game. The cancellation of the Euro’s seems inevitable and the league situations I’m sure will also be ruled upon. The SFA could rule upon this but would you trust that corrupt organisation to come to a logical conclusion? This is the governing body that has allowed a decade of cheating go unpunished and have sat for well over a year on a complaint about the same club lying in order to get a European licence, without taking it to the European Court for Arbitration in Sport.
I fully expect UEFA to go by their former example in Yugoslavia where the league was suspended indefinitely, 24 games into a 34 game league. Partizan – who were a mere 2 points ahead in the 1998/1999 season, were awarded the title over challengers Obilic.
A more recent example was in Chile last year when the league was brought to an end early with six games remaining due to security fears and anti-government protests in the country. Universidad Catolica were 13 points clear and were crowned champions. UC President, Juan Tagle said "It's not the way we would have wanted to win the title but I hope everyone recognises that we are the legitimate champions.”
The Chilean league scrapped relegation for the following season but allowed promotion.
Let’s face facts – If the season finishes here – Celtic are the legitimate winners of the league and 9 in a row has been secured. No rabid Zombie can argue otherwise and their tears and frustration will make for many a laugh in the weeks to come. When we reach the 10 it will be a thing of beauty. Nine has broken them – but the Coronavirus may bury them.