How could COVID-19 Affect the Premier League? With COVID-19 already causing havoc on major disruptions to football games and other events across the world, the Premier League would not be immune to this should the situation take a turn for the worse in the United Kingdom (as at 29 Feb, 16 cases).
According to reports, there were a number of other coronavirus-related developments affecting the Premier League:
- Tottenham’s Son Heung-min will self-isolate when he returns from surgery in South Korea
- Newcastle and West Ham have banned handshakes at their training grounds
- Arsenal to impose extra checks for media attending news conference at the club’s training ground
- Summer’s pre-season International Champions Cup will not go ahead in Asia
Premier League bosses are reportedly preparing for emergency talks to prepare for the unprecedented event of possible wide-scale disruption to the league.
A number of scenarios could possible pan out, depending on how the situation in the UK develops over the course of the next 3 months
COVID-19 Scenario#1 Premier League to resume as normal, additional checks at grounds
Following the current trajectory of the development of the COVDI-19, it is likely there will be at least some form of tweaks to the current situation in the Premier League. In the upcoming weeks, additional medical checks may be conducted for fans entering the football grounds. Clubs are expected to reiterate NHS guidelines to their fans.
All clubs will step up their efforts within their training grounds to prevent any epidemics within the club. We also expect PR departments of each club to remind their players not to make insensitive COVID-19 remarks (read: Dele Alli)
The Premier League carries on as normal otherwise, culminating to its crescendo in May 2020.
This is the most optimistic of scenarios.
COVID-19 Scenario#2 Premier League to be played with limited fan access
Another possible way things will pan out is that clubs begin to impose more restrictions and checks on fans who turn up at the ground. This may include, but not limited to, additional identification checks (for contact tracing), barring of away fans and general reduction in number of spectators (to facilitate better management).
In European competitions in particular, it may make some sense for the Premier League sides to ban away fans (and other teams to reciprocate) to reduce travelling and movement of people en mass.
Again, in this scenario, the Premier League continues otherwise.
COVID-19 Scenario#3 Premier League to be played without fans at grounds
If things turn for the worse, it is possible for the Premier League to dictate that all of the remaining fixtures to be played without fans at the grounds. The Serie A has already done this, forcing clubs in the epicenter of the breakout in Northern Italy to play behind closed doors.
The remaining Premier League fixtures will therefore become “made-for-television” games.
This scenario is unprecedented in Premier League history – not a single game had ever been played with no fans in its 28-year history.
However, also in this scenario, all the clubs fulfill their fixtures for this season.
COVID-19 Scenario#4 Premier League halted
This is the Armageddon scenario where no one wants to see. If events make a turn for the worse dramatically and resources get diverted to curb the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Premier League will be forced to halt under government orders.
This is scenario in which the Premier League have to plan for.
The fate of the league title may ironically be resolved before it comes to this, as we all know, Liverpool can mathematically seal the title by Gameweek 32 or 33 (depending on the FA Cup). If that happens before the Premier League is halted, the title should be awarded to the Reds, though it is likely to have an asterisk to it to mark an “unfinished” season.
Other than the title race, things may get trickier. Where other teams finish would be subject of intense discussion, especially those with European qualification and relegation significance (though it can be argued if these are still relevant in light of a global pandemic).
Any of the below sub-scenarios would be challenged by clubs disadvantaged by it.
Scenario#4a Teams to finish as they were
In this sub-scenario, all the teams forgo the rest of the season and “finish” as they stand. As things stand, Liverpool will win the “title” and the top 4 would be made up of Man City, Leicester and Chelsea while Spurs and Man Utd take the next two European spot.
Norwich get relegated, alongside Watford and West Ham.
Scenario#4b Formula-based projection
Somewhat like the Duckworth-Lewis method in cricket, the super-computers and the mathematicians hired by the Premier League project how teams should finish, based on modelling and the past results of the season already played.
This scenario may slightly disadvantage Aston Villa (16th), whose remaining fixtures are deemed “more difficult” than that of West Ham (17th).
Scenario#4c Season null and void
The worst case scenario of all scenarios is for the Premier League to declare the 2019/20 Premier League null and void. All results get expunged and this season is treated as if it did not happen and we start 2020/21 as we did for 2019/20.
This scenario is highly unlikely given that we are already at GW27/28 and this call would also have impact across all divisions of the English football pyramid. Also, let’s not forget that English football have not seen this level of disruption since World War II.
Of course, the situation is now fluid and everything can still happen. However, there two points which are poignant – 1) the death rate of this virus is ~3.5% in Mainland China and about ~1.5%. These figures are not low, but it masks the fact that the overwhelming majority recover. 2) WHO has not yet declared a pandemic.
Therefore, Scenario #2 is quite likely how things will pan out for the remaining months of the Premier League season – a fulfillment of the fixture list with some disruption to how fans can watch the games at the grounds.
- Classic Fantasy Premier League Code: effv23
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