Regular readers of my work will know that I’ve been working my way through Jürgen Klopp’s time at the club, looking at each season since he arrived at Anfield and evaluating it. I will carry on with that next week, but for now I wanted to write a quick piece about the emerging narrative from some quarters that the current campaign should be ended somehow, mainly in order to get the next one up and running in time. It’s such an insane thing for people to want that I simply can’t get my head around it. I obviously understand those with a vested interest wanting things to be decided in a manner that works in their favour, but for those with no real skin in the game I’ll simply never understand the calls for things to be ended early. I’m not even saying that purely from a Liverpool point of view, though I of course have to admit to my own vested interests before attempting to discuss it all as sensibly as I’m able to.
German football cancelled until End of August (at least) – sorry but it is time to cancel the season. Let’s hope this all slows down enough and gets to a point we can start again September/October time. @premierleague @EFL
— Rejected Manager (@RejectedBook) April 20, 2020
Even those that are calling for the end of the season seem to acknowledge that the idea of starting the next one is based on ‘hope’ more than anything else. Right now we have no reason to believe that Covid-19 will slow down for any reason until and unless a cure and a vaccine can be discovered. Even if that happens it’s still likely to be months rather than weeks before it can be put into effect. Getting the Premier League teams into the same sort of locale in order to keep them all isolated from infected people would be as good as impossible for the six weeks or so that would be required to end this campaign, but doing it for the nine months or more needed to play out an entire season simply couldn’t be done. The reality is that the only sensible thing to do is to try to finish the 2019-2020 campaign, even if that’s not until 2021. I am yet to be presented with any decent argument for doing anything else whatsoever.
There Is No Alternative
I’d like to think that I’m a sensible and level-headed football fan. In the wake of matches, I try to write calm pieces that don’t over-react to even the worst of circumstances. For that reason, if someone turned round to me and said, “The season needs to be made null and void right now and we need to start next season when it’s safe to do so” then I like to think that I’d be able to put my emotions about Liverpool and the title to one side and weigh up what I’ve been told. Yet the simple truth is that there is absolutely no good reason why next season getting underway matters more than finishing this one. If you’re reading this as someone who does believe why next season starting is more important than this one finishing then please do explain your reasoning in the comments section. Only I don’t think I’m ever going to log on to the site and see any comments as there simply isn’t a decent argument for why that should happen.
So, what does it mean for football? Pedro Proença, president of Liga Portuguesa de Futebol Profissional, had previously targeted end of May for the season to re-start, which certainly looks possible. But, the matches will likely be behind closed doors, at least at first.
— Rui Miguel Martins (@futebolfactory) April 20, 2020
I’m yet to be convinced that the lockdown can be lifted any time soon, let alone that football matches will be able to carry on as normal at any point. As long as the virus exists and the government is doing nothing to quarantine and track people entering the country, any easing of the lockdown will result in spikes of people getting seriously ill. How, then, can the return of football ever be guaranteed? That’s the case without fans, let alone if people want supporters to be in attendance. Let’s imagine, then, that this campaign is abandoned or curtailed early in order to allow the next one to begin in September or October. We get ten games in to the new season and another burst of the Coronavirus causes the country to be shut down again. The shutdown lasts for four months. What do we do now with the football season? What good could possibly come from ending this season to start the next if there’s no guarantee the next can take place?
Finish What We’ve Started
If we were five or ten games in to the current campaign then I might well understand the calls to cut it short. It would take many months to complete it, after all, so ending things before they got too serious would make sense. The same logic is not applicable to this season, though. We’re right near the end of it. There are six to eight weeks left before the important things will be all tied up. I honestly believe that would be my opinion if I was a Southampton, Tottenham or Norwich supporter instead of being a Red. Yes, I want to see Liverpool win the league, but even if we were battling to end in the top ten I’d still think that the most logical thing to do would be the way forward. There is no logic that I can understand to finishing things before their natural conclusion for the simple reason that we have no idea what comes next. Also, how do you end things fairly? None of the options except for the one that sees games played out can be fair to everyone.
And then a player catches it and the whole season has to be delayed again. Just void the season and start 20/21 in August
— Josh Hart (@JoshHar09426930) April 18, 2020
You can freeze the season as it stands, but that’s unfair to clubs with games in hand. You could pro-rata points but if I supported a club that had been hitting form this calendar year after a poor start to the season I’d be furious if we then ended up relegated. You could completely cancel the entire campaign, and yet I’m not sure what good that does anyone. The only option that makes any sense, therefore, is to see the season out, even if that means waiting until next January to do so. There are plenty of reasons why that’s unlikely to happen, of course, with most of them being financial. Simply put, clubs won’t be able to survive in stasis for that long. Yet ending the season now with no firm guarantee on when it will be able to resume isn’t any better for those clubs. It’s a mess. We all need to start our discussions from that view point and acknowledge that there’s no easy way forward. After that, finish the thing we know we can.
Honestly, the thing I am more worried about is that club football as we know it essentially dies because as the weeks go on with no end in sight, teams simply won’t be able to pay their bills, whether that is paying staff or servicing debt. Football would need to be bailed out and I certainly don’t see this government doing that. At some point, every club will have to use the government furlough scheme if they expect to survive. Player contracts will have to be deferred or be severely slashed. The question is not when football comes back. It is if it comes back. And I’m very worried that there may be no more seasons.