Date: 2nd May 2020 at 8:58am
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Premier League clubs have been told that neutral grounds are essential in planning for a return to playing top flight football but how does that and all the other stuff (testing etc) that it entails maintain the integrity of the league?

As has been written over the last few days and weeks, here on Vital Norwich as much as anywhere, football and it’s return is hardly important in the middle of a global pandemic.

The catastrophic impact on the human race caused by COVID-19 ranks right up there at the moment as one of the greatest threats our species has ever seen. Lockdown measures and social distancing have managed to check it, it would seem at least for now, but until a vaccine is developed then it looks like we are going to have to get used to a new type of normal in the meantime.

This is a football blog though and it considers all things Norwich City as well as sometimes stories outside of the Canary world. This though, affects the Canary world in a big way.

You may have missed it but on Thursday evening at 5.38pm local time, Paris St. Germain were announced title winners of France’s Ligue 1. There was little or no fanfare and it took PSG’s media team 11 minutes to tweet about it, suggesting they were caught on the hop a little.

In the Netherlands, the decision was taken last week to end the season without a title winner or relegation. It would’ve been harsh to award the title to Ajax who were separated from AZ Alkmaar at the top only on goal difference but at the bottom, things were different when play was forced to stop.

Bottom (18th) placed RKC Waalwijk were 11 points adrift of  16th placed Fortuna Sittard with 17th placed ADO Den Haag 7 points behind Fortuna.

There will be no promotion from the Dutch second division either, the season was effectively declared void – surely a nuclear option?!

In France, they went with awarding the title and relegation places.

At the top, PSG were 12 points clear of Marseille who have, so far, failed to register any public acknowledgement that the season has actually ended.

At the bottom in 20th place, Toulouse were 10 points adrift of 19th placed Amiens who were also relegated. However, Amiens were just four points off 18th placed Nimes with 30 points still to play for.

That, seems unbelievably harsh and Amiens have promised to “go all the way” in an attempt to appeal the decision.

Two different options chosen by two different football federations and a clear reminder that if a football season isn’t played to a finish that there will be serious ramifications.

Football is entirely different in England though because the difference between staying in the Premier League, even in 17th place and relegation is catastrophic for a club’s finances. It is literally a “boom and bust” culture experienced by so many clubs who have played Premier League football and then suddenly find that they’re not.

As an example of this, take last season and Huddersfield Town who finished in 20th position and took home around £95m, while in France, PSG earned only around £50m and they won the title (again).

Any club relegated from the Premier League can expect their income to be slashed from £95m to just over £40m in the year after relegation. That margin of loss, for any business, would be horrific and hard to survive and yet, in England that’s just the way that it is.

With nine games to go, five scheduled to be home games, and only six points adrift, automatic relegation would be harsh on Norwich City, not to mention Aston Villa, who have ten games left to play and on Bournemouth who are separated from 17th placed Watford only by goal difference and there’s only +1 in it too. West Ham are on the same points but are only +2 gd ahead of Watford and that’s before you consider the claims of both Leeds  and West Brom, who have virtually occupied the top two spots in the Championship all season.

Pick the bones out of that lot.

I can see why the clubs want to end the season by playing it out to a conclusion and TV money of £762m with the prospect of having to repay it, or at least half of it, is another huge factor in the decision making process.

If the Premier League or FA, or whoever make these decisions go the way of France then Norwich are down and out, as are Villa and Bournemouth but if they go the way of Holland, then  the status quo is preserved.

Should next season, which could just as easily be wrecked by further virus outbreaks be given priority over a season that is already three quarters completed?  Should Liverpool (25 points clear) be denied a title? Should Leeds and WBA be denied what look like near certain promotions? Those things seem highly likely to have happened had the season played out with no break.

From a Norwich City point of view, I still like the idea of promoting the top two from the Championship and relegating nobody to make it a 22 team league next season. I would say that though, wouldn’t I?

The Championship playoff scenario is muddled, as a mini knockout League always is, but money could be paid as compensation for those teams involved in or around the top six there but the problem, of course, goes all the way down the leagues.

In the rest of the EFL, what happens at the top will reverberate downwards. Just 3 points separate bottom three Charlton from 17th placed Stoke.

The top and bottom of League One are equally as close and it’s mightily close at the top of League Two as well.

This is a nightmare for the clubs and the organisers, forfeit of that £762m will affect not just Premier League clubs and some clubs could actually go out of business, especially in the EFL. That’s before you even consider the jobs of people, their livelihoods, their homes etc.

One thing I do know though, is that it is too soon to start playing football again. I understand that they have to start talking about it because just like any other, football is a business and a lucrative one at that, at least at the top but when people are still losing their lives, there are bigger things to think about.


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One Reply to “Clubs Told Neutral Grounds Essential For Premier League Return As France Awards Title And Relegations”

  • My only wish is that where teams finish are not decided by some crazy mathematical formula based on what has happened up to now. I refer back to when Leicester City recently won the premiere league title, I wonder, with nine games to go, how many people actually thought they would do it ? I am sure in comparison with Norwich City’s plight, there would be far more people willing to back them to avoid relegation than there would have been backing Leicester to win the premier league !

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