CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: How leagues could be decided if they do not finish

Football has been suspended in 19 European countries amid the coronavirus pandemic. What'll happen if league seasons cannot be completed?

Coronavirus: How leagues could be decided if they do not finish

The coronavirus pandemic has led to the suspension of football in 19 European countries: Spain, England, Germany, Italy, France, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Austria, Norway, Switzerland, Romania, Greece, Scotland, Georgia, Ireland, Russia and Ukraine. For the moment, this decision has not been taken in Sweden, Hungary or Turkey.

Fans across Europe are asking the same question: How would the continent’s leagues be decided were the spread of Covid-19 to prevent their seasons from being completed as normal? There are several possible solutions…

Declare the current standings final

On the face of it, this looks like being one of the most commonly used methods. In England, for example, the indications are that the Premier League title would be handed to runaway leaders Liverpool.

It is an option that was employed in Chile in 2019. After the season was suspended amid serious civil unrest in the country, Universidad Católica - who were top when the campaign was halted - were declared champions with six matchdays still to be played. Barcelona would be the major beneficiaries of such a move in LaLiga.

Chop matchdays off the fixture schedule

Another alternative is to cut matchdays off the league fixture list. If play resumes in April or May, this would allow seasons to finish before June. However, this is an option that has so far not been seriously considered.

Round-robin play-offs at the top and the bottom

This is a format already used in countries such as Belgium and Greece, where the top six in the table contest an end-of-season mini-league from which the club with the most points emerges as champions. In leagues such as LaLiga, the Premier League, the Bundesliga and Ligue 1, this would be a first.

Mini-knockout tournament on the cards in Europe… and in domestic leagues too?

On Tuesday, UEFA is to debate whether it would be feasible to complete the Champions League and the Europa League with four-day, four-team knockout tournaments each hosted by a single city. Could it be possible to do something similar in domestic leagues? Much like the round-robin option, this appears to be a reasonable alternative in countries where there is little to separate the teams either at the top or the bottom of the table.

Last X amount of matchdays…

Having seen his side collect nine points out of the last nine in the Premier League, Crystal Palace owner Steve Parish has quipped that the competition should be decided by clubs’ results in the three games before it was suspended.

League declared null and void

If a league’s fixture list cannot be fulfilled in its entirety, some clubs may argue that there are grounds to declare the season null and void. This could well be the case of West Ham United, for example, whose vice-chairman Karren Brady has already stated her opinion that this would be “the only fair and reasonable thing to do”.

All-time standings

Another possible plan would be to declare the season over, and if teams are level or if there is a dispute over the outcome, use their all-time performance ranking as the deciding factor.

STATE OF PLAY IN EUROPE'S LEAGUES:

League                         Country        State of play               Current leaders            Matchday

LaLiga Santander Spain Suspended Barcelona 27/38
Premier League England Suspended Liverpool 29/38
Bundesliga Germany Suspended Bayern 25/34
Serie A Italy Suspended Juventus 26/38
Ligue 1 France Suspended PSG 28/38
Liga NOS Portugal Suspended Porto 24/34
Eredevisie Netherlands Suspended Ajax/AZ 26/34
Jupiler League Belgium Suspended Brugge 29/30
Superliga Denmark Suspended Midtjylland 24/26
Bundesliga Austria Suspended LASK* In play-offs
Eliteserien Norway Suspended Season still to start 0/30
Superliga Switzerland Suspended St Gallen/Young Boys 23/36
Liga I Romania Suspended Cluj* In play-offs
Superliga Greece Suspended Olympiakos* In play-offs
Premiership Scotland Suspended Celtic 30/33
Crystalbet Erovnuli Georgia Suspended Lokomotiv Tbilisi 2/25
Premier Division Ireland Suspended Shamrock Rovers 5/35
Premier League Russia Suspended Zenit 22/30
Super Lig
Turkey Behind closed doors Trabzonspor 26/34
Premier League Ukraine Suspended Shakhtar* In play-offs
OTP Bank Liga Hungary Behind closed doors Ferencvaros 25/33
Allsvenskan Sweden To be decided Season still to start 0/30