I agree with all of CM’s post, apart perhaps from the last line. With Uefa and the EPL having just had meetings now might be the time to take stock. All parties say they want a completing-the-season solution that respects the integrity of football. But have differing rationales.
For English football below the EPL it means completing the various divisions and the FA Cup provided that can be done without permanent damage to the system by way of clubs going bust.
For the EPL it means a combination of avoiding having to pay hundreds of millions of pounds to the TV companies for breach of contract, avoiding losing multi-million pound players for nothing, cementing a TV deal for next season, and keeping in with Uefa so clubs are allowed into the Champions League and the Europa League.
If that can be achieved in conjunction with the lower leagues, so there is promotion and relegation through the pyramid, fine. But if the Championship cannot be played to a finish the EPL will live with that. What matters are those European positions.
For Uefa it is irrelevant whether the lower leagues in England or anywhere else are completed. The only imperative is that the top flights, and especially the major five, sort out their European qualifying slots.
And these differing rationales produce differing chronologies for these sectors. Below the EPL the necessity is for clarity and stability and a plan for next season as soon as possible, plus if need be some rescue-package money from the EPL or elsewhere. It is justified to laugh at Derby County, who are the creators of their own troubles, but clubs that have tried to stick to the rules and be financially prudent will also be at risk.
For the EPL there is the deadline of July 16 to complete their season, or risk that having to pay those TV contract rebates of up to £762m, although there has been a hint from the TV companies, never ones to let a global crisis hinder their deal-making, that they might waive the right to the money provided they are allowed to show more live matches next season.
That apart, given that finishing the season by June 30 is now in effect a dead duck, the aim must be to get it done as soon as possible, so they can plan (‘plan’ being the operative word, given how the virus might not have gone away, or might have gone and come back) a full 38-game season for 2020-21, with lots of matches to televise.
That could probably be achieved by losing only one month, so completing this season by the end of July or very early August, having a month for rest and a transfer window, and starting again in early September.
What seems close to impossible, given World Cup qualifiers and the fixed point of the rescheduled Euros, would be to fit in a full EPL, EFL, FA Cup and Euro cups season into the Uefa plan of completing in July and August and restarting in October.
So the EPL, especially at the top end, is likely to be conflicted between completing in time to try to have a full next season and accepting the Uefa delay to ensure places in the Champions League.
Complicating the argument is the fear that the obvious alternative, of scrapping the season now, or very soon, in order to have a full season next time could be made stupid because the virus plays havoc later this year and into next, so you end up with two ruined seasons. If there is a certainty (the LDC argument) it is that this season can be finished sooner or later, even if later is much later, and with damage to the league structure.
For Uefa its plan would necessitate shortening the over-lengthy preambles to the Champions League and Europa League, but an October start could ensure that they were then both played out pretty normally, with a group and a knockout stage, so taking up many of the midweek slots in the calendar. Uefa have already made plain their priority is the Champions League by issuing the threat – if a bluff it would need to be called - that leagues which don’t complete will be barred.
If there was a unanimous timetable then making a decision on whether to complete and if so when would be comparatively easy, but there is not. Added to which, no-one can say for how much longer the virus will make football physically impossible by way of clubs having to isolate, or possible for players but not spectators, so behind closed doors, or what the government’s assessment would be if the football authorities thought it was feasible to resume.
One report in the Mail said restarting was not regarded as potentially a drain on essential medical and emergency services, but whether the government realises just how many matches would be involved in completing the whole pyramid is a question. It may have imagined only the EPL. And one can imagine public opinion being torn between moral disgust at football being prioritised over death and private pleasure at its return.
I have been among those who predicted the season would be scrapped. On the medical/moral basis that football could not/should not carry on, with the specific argument that going beyond June 30 would cause major logistical and financial problems. Not so sure now.
If there was one chronology driving events I would be more confident of scrapping. But that there isn’t enables decisions to be kept on being postponed. And the truth is that the sector that needs the quickest decision, and probably a decision to scrap, that below the EPL, is the weakest in terms of football politics.
I can see a scenario in which the uncertainty over the virus and these varying chronologies (especially Uefa’s) means a decision is put off so long (and I don’t think it would have to be for that much longer – say only another month) that it becomes impossible to have a full next season, making the argument to complete this one hard to resist.