Life has changed a fair bit in the last 5-6 months, in almost every aspect, and while we’ve been able to cope with some things and learn to function in our new reality to some degree, the fight against the coronavirus is far from over. One can only hope that it will eventually be if (when?) we get a vaccine (developed and distributed) at some point in the next twelve months.
One of the biggest lessons from the COVID experience, surely, is that we need to be better prepared for such pandemics — who knows when the next zoonotic disease makes the jump! — in every walk of life and society and business and even (especially in some countries that shall go unnamed) politics. And that includes sport and football and the Premier League specifically.
When the pandemic hit, no one really knew what to do, how to react, how to act, and what to plan for. In a way, that probably saved the season in England and most other countries, since the only league that had some sort of official contingency plan in place, the French Ligue 1, didn’t hesitate to truncate their season and declare a winner in April.
Of course, one of the biggest arguments in favor of pushing for a restart was that the overall situation was unlikely to improve greatly between June and September, and there was little to be gained in terms of safety and a lot to lose in terms of finances by waiting. And fortunately, the decision to restart leagues across Europe has resulted in very few if any significant issues, and proved the usefulness and viability of playing sports (assuming certain measures are in place and other, more overarching factors allow it), albeit behind closed doors.
But it’s easy to declare victory too early, and assume that we’re past the worst of it. We only have to look to the United States for what can happen, but a second wave (or more) may be inevitable everywhere. It’s a common feature of pandemics — especially as people relax. (To wit: Chelsea have apparently told players that they cannot vacation in places that are on the UK’s quarantine list, which should be common sense but it’s good to make sure.)
Given the possibility (eventuality?) of a second wave or the next pandemic, it’s good to hear that the Premier League are working on creating some contingency measures. As reported by the Evening Standard, the league will be discussing a protocol for truncating future seasons if necessary — such as how to decide winners and losers, and when can we consider the season valid, and so on. The reported number that’s being proposed for that is 50 per cent, which is a good place to start any such discussion. So, if half the season gets played, we could declare a winner, and if not, we would declare it null and void.
That’s probably just one concept that will be discussed at the next league meeting, set for next week, with final decisions expected to be made before the start of next season next month (September 12).