End the season – or should it proceed?

How will professional football proceed?
This question will still be of longstanding interest and many theories are emerging, however, on a shorter time-scale, the DFL will deal today (and the UEFA tomorrow) how and if one could end the current season. Let’s take a look at possible scenarios.
(Cover picture by 
Peter Boehmer)

There is an incredible amount of positions and perspectives to take into account. To deal with every single one here would just add to more confusion. So let’s just focus on the practical aspects, the competition as such, from a DFL’s or UEFA’s perspective. Of course, the interpretation of these things is our personal one and will not claim to be the only truth.

It’s simply a fact: in the “larger” leagues, there are still between nine and twelve matches to play, partly (due to matches in hand, e.g. for Inter) 13 matches are remaining. Additionally, there are the national cup matches (e.g. for Inter) and internationally, there’s the Europa League (round of 16 remaining, e.g. with Inter) and the Champions League (with some remaining matches of the round of 16).

With postponing the Euro 2020, more time was gained which should facilitate a somehow ordered end of (at least) the national leagues now. UEFA-chair Aleksander Ceferindid recently said that “in June at latest”, the ball has to roll again in order to somehow end the season. (SZ/dpa)

So basically, only two possible scenarios are remaining, which should ideally be the same for all (professional) divisions, even this is no absolute must.

  • The season of 2019/2020 will be prolonged and then ended (probably in July/August) and the new season will start after a very short break only. 
  • The season of 2019/2020 cannot be ended in time and will be either completely annulled or the table of a certain matchday x will be declared as the final table/result.

Scenario 1:
As no one is truly believing that the end of the season can be played with spectators at the stadiums the only remaining option will be matches behind closed doors. This would be of advantage for the divisions as they could schedule the matchdays with no further obstacles and theoretically, they could even do matchdays in a tournament-style to facilitate the possibly needed tight schedule.
But even for matches behind closed doors, there are some basic necessities: It must not be enforced any longer that whenever someone participating in these matches tests positive for COVID-19, every single individual which had contact with the infected would need to quarantine. Otherwise, there will always be some players (or one of their relatives) who might be tested positive which will make closed matchdays impossible then. But whether this will be the case soon cannot be officially confirmed yet, however, it might remain a possibility. To figure that out (next to a miracle of the whole situation) would necessitate new tests with which for example all members of a certain group could be tested then and later only the positively tested individuals would need to self-isolate. We are by no means virologists but from the daily podcast with Professor Dr Drosten we learned that this is technically possible.
So, if this should be the case at (at the latest) from mid to end of June, the season could probably get finished due to a tight schedule (and maybe also focused on only a few match locations only). This would probably be the best option for all associations and clubs, also from a financial perspective.
(To put it simplified: Taken two matches per week for granted during June and July, 18 matches would still be possible, even more with a more tight schedule. If this would be a realistic option and if the international matches should be played within this schedule can’t be decided yet.)

The earlier this scenario starts, the more likely is the chance to get the national and international cup matches played which otherwise should be cancelled to finish the leagues instead. This would probably only bother a few, however, it would still be annoying for some, with greetings to Saarbrücken.

If this would all go ahead as drafted here, it would still need an international binding contract from the UEFA or FIFA which would clarify that all player contracts with otherwise would end on the 30th of June 2020 will be prolonged until the season is finished (which will be sometime around July/ August?) and that all new contracts would only start afterwards. Whether this would be in line with current labour laws might be controversial but cannot be completely ruled out, a generic clause “until the end of the season” is probably part of model contracts already and could now take effect – whether someone would actually take this rule to court might – in the light of the current situation – be questionable.

Another particular challenge would then, of course, be the start of the new season only a few weeks later, simply because all summer transfers would have to be dealt with in only a couple of weeks which would be an enormous challenge especially for those clubs which will play in different divisions then.

And down to which divisions should this regulation be applied? What will happen on the possible threshold when for example the third division will be played until the end but the regional division will not? (or further down accordingly)
In this case, no relegation would probably happen in that division which will play to the end or maybe not even that, whereas the question of what will happen to the promoted clubs of the highest division which did not play until the end takes us directly to scenario 2.

Scenario 2:
The season cannot be finished, at some stage (August or even later than that) the season 2020/21 will start.
From a sportive perspective, there are two ways of how the unfinished season can be counted:

a) Not at all.
The season 2020/21 will simply start with all teams at the same division as the season before.
As there will probably be the one or the other club which went into administration and might be liquidated then or that a club (maybe not for the first or second division) doesn’t want to take any more financial risks, liquidated teams will be substituted from lower divisions, provided there are applicants for this vacant positions.

Advantage: Easy to achieve.
Disadvantage: A wave of lawsuits is likely, especially from those clubs that are currently on promotion ranks.

b) The table of a certain matchday X will be defined to be the final table.
Of course, it’s still worth a discussion whether this certain table should be the table after the first leg of the season was finished or the “current” one. For the latter case, it should be a table in which all team at least had the same amount of matchdays played. Both solutions will be partly unfair, but there’s no perfect solution for the case that the season would be cancelled.
(But just imagine that team X is somewhere in the middle of the table but would still have a match in hand against the neighbour in the table who has the same amount of points… and because of this the table has to be the one from the earlier matchday which might cause different promotions and relegations! Doesn’t matter, these are questions of detail).

In this case, it also has to be clarified how to deal with borderline cases (In Germany: relegation matches // England: Play-offs).

Or, it’s decided that there won’t be any relegations this season, teams which would currently get promoted will be added to the respective higher divisions and in the next season, the number of clubs to get relegated will be increased to get the divisions back to their previous size.
For many countries this would be the most elegant alternative, however, in Germany, this would again cause another matter about relegation matches. Does/Do specifically this match/ these matches need to be played? As the only one(s) after months of a break?
Or will both participants of these matches be declared as winners? For the Bundesliga, this would lead to an uneven number of teams (21), which should also not be wished for by anyone. So, four teams to get promoted? Which would cause 22 teams in the first division?

Advantage: — (None that I could think of)
Disadvantage: There’s the threat of a huge wave of lawsuits, a unified solution for all countries appears rather impossible due to the high variety of national divisions systems.

On a national level, it should be easy to cope with if these cups are simply cancelled. International spots can also be filled with members of the respective divisions.
(Yes, I totally agree that this would be absolutely cruelty for the fans of the 1.FC Saarbrücken)

But internationally there’s nothing dependent on the cups, in the long run, no promotions or relegations. Another big issue, in this case, should be TV-grants and sponsorship contracts… on the other hand due to the already later stage of the respective competitions would this only be a matter for those clubs which usually do not face financial constraints so that this issue could be ticked off as: “Doesn’t work…it’s a pity, but there’s nothing we can do about it”.
Depending on the way matches are resumed one can also think about special short tournaments, however, this could be difficult to achieve from a logistic perspective.
Alternatively, the remaining legs could also be played in the upcoming season – if this makes sense or whether this is just to pay out TV-grants has to be decided by everyone individually.

You might get an idea about the question of why it’s important for everyone involved (with exception of those clubs currently threatened to get relegated) to finish the current season somehow. Even if the focus of this article is on sportive aspects only … financial aspects are not taken into account yet.
It’s an exciting task ahead for the DFL/DFB and UEFA as there’s no single right solution – additionally, these associations are dependent on so many aspects that are neither capable to influence by them nor can they judge them finally and seriously.

Questions for you:
What do you think will happen next? Will it be one of the two scenarios? If the season is cancelled, how will promotions and relegations be decided?
Or can you think of a third idea?
Spam our comment section, there’s plenty of space.

Additional links:
– Kicker “Rummenigge erwägt Bundesliga-Start im Winter”
– Süddeutsche: “Letzte Ausfahrt vor dem Crash”

// Maik (Translated by Arne) 

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