Should football's authorities wipe the slate clean or complete the season amid coronavirus crisis? Our Sunderland, Newcastle, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough writers deliver their verdict
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Here's what our Sunderland, Newcastle United, Hartlepool United and Middlesbrough writers think about the debate that’s dividing the football world…
These are unprecedented times, with every daily teatime press conference from the Prime Minister comes another major change to the way we live our lives in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Football, rightly, is taking a backseat at the moment.
But football fans, like everybody else, will naturally be desperate to get back to some sort of normality soon.
When will that be? That's the million dollar question.
They have also given themselves scope to extend the season indefinitely in a bid to complete the domestic leagues one way or another. That's important.
One way or another, for the integrity of the competition, this season must be completed.
The option of voiding the season must be avoided at all costs.
Even if it means playing a string of games in June, provided it is safe to do so, behind-closed-doors when at least you can guarantee the weather in order to get three games a week in.
You can't start next season without finishing this. It would open a legal can of worms, with lawsuit after lawsuit if clubs were denied titles, play-off places, promotion, qualification into Europe and which teams would be relegated?
Those in the relegation zones at the moment? What if they have played a game less than their rivals above them?
No, the season must be completed. Whenever that is.
Miles Starforth – Newcastle United writer: “These are extraordinary times”
In a couple of months’ time, I hope I’m back in a press box of a stadium filled with fans.
But it’s hard, right now, to see that happening. And I’m not even sure behind-closed-doors football, which is preferable to no football, will be an option in May or even June.
We just don’t know, and that’s the thing. There’ll come a time, maybe soon, when we’ll need some certainty. Yes, we want the Premier League (and FA Cup) to be completed, but with the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, potentially, two or three months away in this country, is that possible? It seems unlikely.
The most obvious solution is to cancel the season.
That’s far from ideal for champions-elect Liverpool, and those clubs vying for promotion to the Premier League. Those clubs threatened by relegation, no doubt, will favour a premature end to the campaign.
The stakes are high for Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion – and every EFL club reliant on gate revenue for survival – but the stakes are higher off the pitch.
This is unprecedented and these are extraordinary times. The health of the nation must come before the health of the national game, though it’s too early to declare the season null and void. We must wait – for now.
Phil Smith – Sunderland writer: “Radical change, so be it”
A conclusion to the current season is an absolute necessity for the game.
Declaring it null and void, or even trying to reach a conclusion based on the current tables, will without doubt unleash a series of lawsuits through the divisions.
This would man the eventual return of football and any sense of a 'fresh start' from beginning the campaign again would be overshadowed by the cloud of legal action hanging over all of the divisions.
If that means a radical change to next season's schedule, so be it.
Clubs can plan appropriately for any change to league or cup schedules, and crucially, everyone will start on the same terms and with a knowledge of what is to come.
The club's governing bodies have today bought themselves time to plan properly for what comes next and the fact of the matter is, everything is on hold while we wait to see how the outbreak of COVID-19 develops.
Liam Kennedy – Newcastle United writer: “An easy decision, with no easy outcome”
I do not envy the powers that be on this one, whatever their call, criticism will come their way.
But unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures and, as we do in every day life, football requires strong governance and even stronger decision-makers.
To me, this is an easy decision with no easy outcome.
You cannot start a new season without finishing the old one, plain and simple.
Whatever the timeframe this campaign is yet to be finished and so many questions remain unanswered. Should we move ahead without getting finality on the title in the Premier League, relegation, European places, promotion, etc, then doubt will forever prevail.
Liverpool’s first title in three decades would forever have an asterisk. Newcastle United’s longest FA Cup run in their history would end trophy-less (insert joke here). Legal challenges from sides not coming up would ensue, or going down, whichever route the governing bodies take. Are we happy with that?
It is a minefield but one that must be crossed. There are definitely less casualties if this season is played out, even if that pushes into next year.
I get the idea there could be little appetite to return to an old campaign, potentially six months, or longer, after the last game and a want for a fresh start, but taking the ‘null and void’ route would create a mess and leave a scar in the English footballing landscape that would be impossible to erase.
Dominic Scurr – Hartlepool United writer: “An opportunity to rework football calendar”
It's an unprecedented and uncertain time for football at the moment.
Rescheduling the European Championships until 2021 was a necessity and should enable domestic leagues and competitions to be concluded at some point.
If we were just a few games into the season as we were in World War II, it would be simple to void the season and start again whenever suitable. But considering we're three-quarters of the way through the campaign, it really should be allowed to finish in order to keep the competition's integrity intact.
Continuing the 2019-20 season will no doubt have a significant knock-on effect on future seasons but this could be seen as an opportunity to rework the footballing calendar, especially considering a winter World Cup is coming in 2022.
The current season should be allowed to be played to a conclusion, whether that's behind closed doors or otherwise.
Having covered non-league football, it's not uncommon for semi-professional and amateur players to play upwards of 10 matches in the space of a month - surely the large squads and elite athletes of the Premier League could manage?
Joe Nicholson – Middlesbrough writer: “2020/21 may need to be shorter”
It’s quite clear that this season needs to be completed before we even think about starting the 2020/21 campaign.
Declaring the season null and void shouldn’t be an option so it was encouraging to hear the Premier League and EFL announce they are committed to trying to fulfil fixtures.
Obviously we don’t know when it will be safe to resume the season, and football’s authorities have been wise to give themselves time to see how the situation develops.
These are obviously unprecedented circumstances and isn’t the time for knee-jerk reactions like cancelling the season.
When it becomes clearer that football can resume, plans can be put into place about a potential pre-season and when we can start next season.
The suspension may mean the 2020/21 season needs to be made shorter or there is a further delay to future competitions, yet that can be resolved when we have a better understanding of the time frame.
Mark Donnelly – Sunderland writer: “A slightly pessimistic view”
It’s becoming abundantly clear that football will not resume on April 30.
Nor, if the medical experts’ predictions are correct, will May or even June be feasible.
So to me, it seems the sooner football can wrap its head around the fact that this season may not resume at all, the better.
Therefore, it seems the only real option is to void the season. Let’s start start again in August, as planned, with no promotion and relegation taking place over the summer. Newcastle would stay in the Premier League, Boro in the Championship and Sunderland in League One.
Any points deductions that were applicable in 2018/19 (Bolton, Macclesfield) will be carried over.
We’re going to have to take some pain at some point, so why not just get it out the way now?
This approach would mean no re-jigging of future seasons and would mean players wouldn’t have to rush back.
It may be a slightly pessimistic view, and one which fans and indeed clubs themselves may not be too happy with, but it seems the common sense approach.
Because what happens if we resume in June and another player or manager tests positive for Coronavirus? Even if games are played behind closed doors, this is a very real threat - and could shut down football once again.
So for me, the logical option is to cancel the season now.
Football is important, but it’s not as important as life or death. Let’s remember that.
Jordan Cronin – Digital sports writer: “I’m glad I’m not making the decisions”
I’m sure most clubs would love nothing more (unless your club is on course for relegation) to fulfil the remaining fixtures but I’m really struggling to see how that is now possible. I don’t want to drift away from the facts so I will stick to them.
The timeframe to complete the season - or to get it back underway - understandably keeps on moving. UEFA says June 1, the FA says indefinitely. There will probably be a new date thrown about soon.Should Liverpool win the title? Yes. Should Leeds win promotion? Yes. Should Newcastle win the FA Cup? 10000% (that's a joke by the way).
But sadly, nothing is confirmed no matter how certain it looks and awarding teams during a season that hasn’t been concluded create problems for the wider picture.
If the fixture list cannot be played out, which is absolutely what should happen, then sadly it's time to press the reset button and start again. It’s not fair. It has awful repercussions for clubs going forward. But these are unprecedented times, which will no doubt bring similar decisions.
What is clear is any outcome decided will not suit all clubs but ultimately, you will have to take it for what it is. I’m glad I’m not making the decisions…
James Copley – Digital sports writer: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime, seismic problem”
It was once said that of all the unimportant things in life, football is the most important.
And governing bodies, clubs, managers, fans, players and even us writers must be mindful that, when all is said and done, football is just a game.
Yes, football provides a distraction from the perils, pitfalls and mundanity of normal life for millions. But we're in the midst of a worsening pandemic and the speed at which the situation is changing.
Make no mistake, this a serious once in a lifetime seismic problem. That's why I believe this season should be cancelled.
That would lead to the key question of whether titles and promotion are awarded to teams based on how leagues stand at this precise moment - and if teams are relegated.
No is the short answer. You simply cannot dish out prizes or force relegation when there are a significant amount of games left to be played.
It would bring this beautiful game into disrepute.