The remainder of the 2019/20 football season should be completed when safe to do so or be voided, no in betweens and certainly not decided on points per game (PPG) and here is why.
On Thursday the EFL released yet another statement discussing the possibilities of completing the football season and if that becomes impossible to do, how to curtail the season.
The recommended framework is as follows:
- Resuming the 2019/20 season with the existing format remains the most appropriate course of action from a sporting integrity perspective, but the Board accepts there are circumstances that may lead to curtailment (as has been demonstrated with League Two) or a situation subsequently transpires whereby the season is unable to conclude.
- This means that, in the event of an early curtailment:
- Final divisional placings should be determined on unweighted points per game (if required).
- Promotion and relegation should be retained.
- Play-Offs should be played in all circumstances but should not be extended (beyond four teams).
- If a scenario arises whereby the Play-Offs cannot be played, the EFL Board will determine the appropriate course of action.
- The Board considers that the majority required to curtail the 2019/20 season in any division should be 51%. Determining whether or not to curtail the season is a decision for each division to take.
- The principle of relegation across all three divisions is integral to the integrity of the pyramid, from the Premier League down to the National League, provided we have assurances that the National League will start season 2020/21 (i.e. the relegated Club in League Two has somewhere to play).
- Any regulatory solution should be relevant and specific to the current challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak and reach a conclusion that is clear and effective with the impact and justifications easy for all stakeholders to understand.
I agree that this season should be played out when safe to do so. After all everyone’s safety is paramount and if it becomes obvious that this season cannot be concluded then the season should be voided. You cannot award promotion and relegate clubs with almost thirty points still to play for.
The whole PPG rule is absurd and here is why.
Just prior to the pausing of the current season some sides were in great form. Manchester United were unbeaten in 11 games, winning 9 in all competitions whereas Leicester City had only won 4 games out of the last 11 in all competitions. Although the Foxes are 8 points clear of United in the Premier League table, they had only picked up 5 points out of a possible 15 and United 11 out of 15. If the Premier League decides to end the season now with PPG, United will be outside of the top 4 and a Champions League spot yet there’s plenty of time for the red devils to catch the foxes.
In the Championship, Charlton are in the relegation zone yet only slipped into it just days before lockdown. Should they be relegated? Also, Barnsley have 9 points out of the last 15 which is much better form than Charlton, Hull, Middlesbrough, Huddersfield, Stoke and Birmingham yet under PPG rule the Tykes will be relegated.
Barnsley have games against Luton, Stoke and Wigan to play. Teams who are all around the Tykes and PPG rule will prevent Barnsley from potentially digging themselves out of relegation. In fact, had the season started when current Barnsley manager Gerhard Struber joined Barnsley, the Tykes would be 17th in the Championship such is their upturn in form under the Austrian.
In the National League North, York City are top of the league by 2 points but because they have played 2 games more than those clubs around them, under PPG rule it would be Kings Lynn Town (2nd) who would be promoted. This is not a fair way of settling the season.
In the Scottish Championship, Partick Thistle have been relegated under PPG yet were only 2 points off the next side in the table and had a game in hand. How is that fair?
There are many more examples of how unfair the PPG rule is. No one can ever predict how games would play out. In 2014 Gus Poyet somehow guided Sunderland to Premier League safety when all hope looked lost. The Black Cats won 4 games in a row (Chelsea and Man United away, Cardiff and West Brom home) to stay up, that would not happen under PPG.
There are still too many points to play for to end the season under the PPG rule yet it appears most clubs will agree to it. The EFL only requires 51% of the teams to agree to this way of finishing the season.
Take the Championship for instance. The top 2 will agree so they can plan for the Premier League next season. The four sides currently in the play off places will also agree so they can have a shot at winning the 3rd spot in the top league.
Sides who have nothing to play for will agree just so they can plan for next season. Anyone from Reading in 14th to Hull in 21st could drop into the relegation zone and therefore would want the season stopping now to prevent that happening. Sides like Hull and Sheffield Wednesday will not wish to continue such is their current poor form. Therefore the EFL should get the 51% they require to curtail the season and use PPG to settle the final placings.
Whilst you could argue Manchester United have been too inconsistent to win a Champions League place or Barnsley have struggled all season in the Championship, form would suggest they both still have a good chance of hitting their targets.
Whilst this is an unprecedented time, surely common sense needs to prevail and either finish the season if it is safe to do so or void it and start a fresh again next season.