The next season of football could look very different

The world is in a very different place at the moment due to the coronavirus crisis. With many countries having social distancing measures in place, outdoor and sporting events have come to a halt completely. Football is no different, with all the major leagues being suspended or even cancelled completely. While we are still waiting to see the full impact of this crisis on this season, it will also have a huge impact on next season as well.

At present, all the major European leagues are in limbo with regard to the domestic season, with UEFA having moved this summer’s European Championship to next year, partly because staging such a tournament would have been impossible this year, especially given that it was scheduled to be held in multiple cities across Europe, but also to give clubs more time to finish this season. At present, however, the French and Dutch leagues have cancelled the remainder of this season. While the Eredivisie season has been called off without declaring a title winner, the Ligue Un title was awarded to PSG. This is surely the worst-case scenario, with every league wanting to try and finish their seasons as far as possible. Football fans are also being starved of any live action, having to make do with old games being streamed by clubs and leagues, and online FIFA tournaments being played between various teams. Even live sports betting is completely off, with sites like having no matches on which to offer odds.

Nevertheless, while the respective leagues and clubs work with their governments in order to try and arrive at a way to continue their seasons, this crisis has already had an impact on next season. There are already fears about when the 2020/21 season can begin, with most estimates being at a September or October start. This could be crucial, as delaying the start from the usual August dates could lead to an extremely cramped calendar, especially with the Euros now scheduled for next June. There is already talk of certain cup competitions being scrapped in order to clear up space on the schedule, with the Carabao Cup in England likely to be a casualty of this need. Further, the composition of the various leagues could also be significantly different.

Depending on how the leagues finish this season, there is a chance of there being 22 teams in the Premier League, 20 in the Bundesliga, and so on. Basically, if it comes to a point where the current season cannot be completed, the top leagues have a choice to either void the season completely and not award any title wins or confirm relegation spots, thereby leaving the league as it is for next season; or, to arrive at title winners and European places through some formula, not have any relegation, but allow promotion from the lower division. There is no way any league can take the table as it is and relegate clubs; there is bound to be a legal challenge from the affected clubs if this route is taken. Equally though, especially in England, there could be a legal issue if clubs are not promoted. In the Championship, Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion are comfortably in the top two and hence the automatic promotion spots, and therefore would justifiably feel aggrieved at having their promotion spots snatched from them. It remains to be seen as to what solutions are found eventually, but at the moment, the state of next season’s football is extremely uncertain, to say nothing of completing this season.

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