Preston North End reporter Dave Seddon’s verdict on how football should divvy up prizes
As the world tries to cope with this awful Covid-19 pandemic, the fact that football is suspended is trivial in the least.
Slowing the spread, caring for the vulnerable and getting treatment for those who need it, is where the globe’s focus is.
This has gone from something happening in China which the majority of us gave scant interest to, and turned into a frightening scenario on our doorstep within three months.
I just hope those in authority and government around the world, make the wisest choices for the good of everyone – guided by the World Health Organisation and the best scientific and medical brains.
This is not a time for Brian and Sandra on Facebook and Twitter to air the ‘facts’ based on what Bob the pub bore told them at the bar the other night.
Eventually we will come out on the other side, how well and when, no one can be sure.
This is when I turn the conversation back to sport – football in this case – because covering it is how I make a living. I don’t know how long it will be before I’m back in the press box bombarding you with updates on Twitter and giving out player ratings.
At the moment, the first weekend in April is the one the EFL and Premier League is working towards.
It is very much a working date, with few thinking that will be anywhere near our beautiful game getting going again.
May or June might be more accurate, we just don’t know at the moment.
Whenever the return date is, I do think it is vital that this season is allowed to finish.
That will impact on next season and possibly the one after that in terms of timings but it is a small price to pay.
Most fans of any club should want to see the season played to a finish rather than just hand out trophies, promotion and relegation places based on how things stand in the middle of March.
Liverpool are miles clear at the top of the Premier League but should have the chance to go and get the last few points they desire.
Issues at the top and bottom of the other divisions aren’t so cut and dried.
There are nine games left in the Championship, 27 points to play for – a not insignificant amount.
This season we have seen how unpredictable this division is, with points won and lost when least expected.
Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion are the two at the moment and quite comfortably so.
They were earlier in the season – before Christmas it looked like everyone else in the pack were competing for the play-offs.
But both went on poor runs, opening up the race for automatic promotion.
So I scoff at the suggestion they should both be promoted to the Premier League, with the play-offs done away with.
One idea was that the top flight should be expanded to 22 clubs next season, the top two Championship clubs promoted and no relegation from the Premier League.
That plan would see no play-offs this time.
I see more than a touch of self-interest there from those in the mix to make the drop.
If the season does have to go on into the summer, it is not a disaster.
It would probably mean a Saturday-Tuesday schedule every week to get things finished. Then have a slightly shorter break and come back in August for pre-season ahead of a September start to the 2020/21 season.
There might have to be sacrifices – could we manage without the League Cup and the Leasing.com Trophy for a season?
A handful more midweek fixtures – something we are used to in the EFL but not quite so in the Premier League – might be needed to ensure next season finishes promptly ready for the Euros, which look set to be moved to summer 2021.
I wrote on Friday when football was suspended, that the current delay to April 3/4 was breathing space for clubs rather than a likely return.
Hopefully that breathing space can be put to good use and common agreement struck.
If the delay is going to be longer, not only just a revised schedule got to be worked out but ways must be found to support clubs outside the big few.
Gate revenue for clubs in the EFL is their lifeblood, yet for the next few weeks no turnstiles will be clicking.
There is the real threat of clubs going to the wall by the time we are through this.
Would it hurt the top clubs to drop just a bit of their wealth down the leagues for the common good?
Maybe an earlier payment of solidarity money which the EFL clubs get from the Premier League?
For now, football is on hold and anxiously so.
From a practical point of view, it will be interesting to see how clubs handle their players in the shutdown.
They will need to keep in shape but there is the time now to give them a breather.
Club doctors will be busy monitoring players’ health and over the next few weeks there will inevitably be players self-isolating.
Hopefully we can get back to normal as quickly as is humanly possible.