It is been more than two months since a Premier League game was played and it is still unclear when players will be able to return to the pitch and complete the season.
Premier League games were called off after Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta became the most high-profile football figure to test positive for the coronavirus in March.
West Ham’s vice-chairman Karren Brady initially called for the 2019-20 season to be declared null and void, only to later row back on her comments after criticism of the idea.
Of course, should the campaign be written off as Brady first suggested, then it would be good news for West Ham, who are only out of the Premier League’s relegation zone on goal difference. Watford and Bournemouth also have 27 points on the board with nine matches to play while Aston Villa – in 19th right now – have a game in hand and are two points further back.
So, with the Premier League set to hold another meeting to discuss the best way to proceed, how is the season going to be concluded?
As harsh as it would be for Liverpool to be denied the league title their fans have been craving for so long, declaring the season null and void remains an option that is under consideration.
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe has previously stated that the only fair way to proceed is to complete the season whenever it is safe to do so, though the Cherries have a vested interest.
With the coronavirus death toll rate of increase slowing down in the UK, it is unclear whether the current lockdown conditions are going to have to be extended further into June. It is not out of the question that the government could announce that lockdown must continue through the summer, making it difficult to resume the football season any time soon.
As the theory goes, declaring the 2019-20 campaign null and void would enable the next season to begin without disruption. This would avoid two straight seasons being wrecked by the virus.
However, even starting a new season in August as usual appears to be very optimistic at present. UEFA has signalled it wants domestic campaigns to be wrapped up by the end of June, which seems unlikely, with Tottenham star Harry Kane backing the view of European football’s governing body.
According to Kane, if the season cannot be completed by that time then it is hard to see how the 2019-20 season can be finished at all. As England captain, Kane’s comments carry weight and it might be the case that other Premier League players agree with his view of the situation.
Euro 2020’s postponement until next year has freed up the summer and it has been mooted that the Premier League could look to fill the gap with a festival of football to finish the season.
According to a report by the Independent earlier last month, the remaining 92 league matches could be played in a TV ‘mega-event’ during June and July. That would see players and club staff quarantined in hotels across the Midlands, where various stadiums would be used to play multiple games a day behind closed doors – negating any home advantage that teams might have on the fixture list. Playing the rest of the season’s fixtures without fans being able to attend appears inevitable at this stage, despite the unsatisfying feeling such matches tend to have.
One of the reasons for this plan is that if the 2019-20 Premier League season cannot be completed, the broadcasters who have forked out a fortune for the rights to show games will be due a refund. Estimates suggest that over £750 million from the rights packages would have to be paid back, with clubs left to fill a gaping hole in their finances. The effect on the game would be huge if this happened, so it is understandable there is a clamour to find a workable solution.
Another way to complete the season that has been suggested is to work out the final tables on a points-per-game basis. While this might seem harsh on teams deemed to have easier run-ins on paper, it would at least ensure some semblance of fairness, with teams such as Liverpool rewarded for their sensational seasons. There would be losers as well as winners with such a plan, however. Sheffield United have a game in hand on the teams around them in the race for European qualification, but would miss out on the chance to make it into the Champions League.
Hammers fans might not have enjoyed the 2019-20 season much at all, but they will still be desperate to see stars like Mark Noble back out on the pitch as soon as possible.
Until the Premier League resumes, we are left with re-watching old games. For those who find it boring there are alternative ways to have fun and still enjoy our favourite thing in the world. One of these could be to play football-themed slots, many of which come with free spins on offer. Playing games like Football Manager and FIFA could be another way to get that football fix.
Unfortunately, it could be the case that football fans will be seeking answers on how the season will be finished for some time yet. The Premier League are making progress but a firm decision could be delayed further. The wait for answers on the resumption of the Premier League season seems set to continue.