Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Mohamed Saleh and Liverpool might not get to finish their historic season.
Mohamed Saleh and Liverpool might not get to finish their historic season.
Photo: Getty

When discussing the bonkers plans the Premier League has floated for finishing its season—call it The Bio-Dome solution—the undercurrent to it all is that there’s a decent chance it won’t be finished at all. The idea of tacking it on to the beginning of next season almost seems a non-starter, with Euro 2021 and Copa America scheduled for the following summer. The more ridiculous — and desperate — the proposals get to finish in the summer, the more likely it feels like the 2019-20 season is over.

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Even that isn’t simple, as the debate rages whether the whole season would be considered “void” or “finished.” The former basically erases it from the history books (except for the money the fans have already spent on tickets and the sponsors on advertising money. Funny, that). The latter hands out baubles that almost certainly come with an asterisk. Neither is a perfect, or even good, solution.

Almost all of the focus on these scenarios has been on Liverpool and its quest for its first league title in 30 years. And most of it has been schadenfreude, as the most dominant team in Premier League history (so far) would be denied a cathartic title that they essentially have already won (and full disclosure, I’m a full-blooded supporter that even owns a Lucas Leiva and Adam Lallana shirt. Even writing this paragraph is going to cause me an hour sitting in the shower crying). To simply watch the best season (so far) that any team has produced in England, simply washed away, would provide fodder for opposing supporters for a couple lifetimes (and those are just the ones in my life), as well as a persecution complex amongst Scousers that could create a supernova in the northwest of England (this was actually a Thatcher proposal).

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The emotional scars on Liverpool supporters would certainly be heinous, and who knows how the club itself would feel. However, at the end of the day, on paper, were that to happen Liverpool would still have one of the best squads in the world, with one of the three best managers in the world, flush with cash after basically sitting out the last transfer window (though not as much because of a shortened season) to make whatever improvements needed. And should Manchester City’s European ban be upheld and cause the exodus of players feared, Liverpool would be massive favorites to win the league for real next season. They would also be among the favorites to win the Champions League again. Everything Liverpool would lose in a voided season is basically intangible, though certainly felt.

The real losers in a voided season would be Leicester City.

One would have to assume that a voided season would see the same teams as this season returned to the European competitions next season, whenever that is. Which would mean that Tottenham would return to the Champions League instead of Leicester, the latter of which is still somewhat entrenched in the top four. And that could have massive effects.

Merely being in the group stages of the Champions League was worth $16.5M to clubs this season. That’s noticeable for a club like Leicester. A couple wins in those group stages netted $6M or $9M or more. Getting to the knockout stages is another $10M. And these are just starting points, as other fees based on market size and coefficients come into it, too. But it’s reasonable to estimate that missing out on the Champions League through no fault of their own could cost Leicester $30M, at the very least.

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That’s just one level. Another season without European competition is going to make it harder to hold onto some of their players who already have bigger clubs circling. James Maddison has been linked to Manchester United, and Ben Chillwell to Chelsea. Harvey Barnes is a name that would make any club salivate, given that he’s 21. Youri Tielemans is in that same boat.

All of these players would net Leicester more than enough money to offset not getting Champions League football. It would also leave the team in ruins. Leicester has been through this before, of course, as its miracle title-winning team of 2016 was stripped of N’Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez, Danny Drinkwater within a year. And then they unearthed all this talent to replace it. Doing it for a second time is a big ask, but if there’s a club that could manage it, it would be Leicester. They just shouldn’t have to.

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Should the season finish, Leciester was hardly a guarantee to finish in the top four. They had an eight-point cushion over fifth-placed Man United—and 10 over sixth-placed Wolves—as the fifth spot may get to the CL as well thanks to City’s ban. But they’d only won two of their last eight and four of their last 12 matches in the league. And manager Brendan Rodgers knows something about slipping at the end when it all seemed fated (yeah, yeah, Gerrard slipped but what the fuck were the centerbacks doing so far apart a minute from halftime in a match you only needed to draw AND WHY THE FUCK WERE YOU CHASING GOAL-DIFFERENCE WITH HALF AN HOUR TO GO AT PALACE WITH A DEFENSE THAT HAD MARTIN SKRTEL IN IT AND….sorry, sorry, tiger got out of the cage).

Perhaps Man City’s ban, should it be upheld by the CAS, is the backdoor here if the season is voided. But how would the Premier League choose who fills it? If everything is based on how the 2018-19 season finished, then it is Arsenal who finished fifth and would have a claim. And Arsenal probably have a little more say and influence than Leicester. If the Premier League awarded it to Leicester, they would be the only team receiving something based on what happened during this current campaign. Is that fair?

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On the flip side of this would be Tottenham, who have been an utter mess all season — and were the first to start cutting staff due to the shutdown this week. They would get a Champions League place they’ve punted into the sea this campaign and probably gave up on achieving long ago. Now, maybe the idea of getting slagged off in the press by Jose Mourinho after one bad performance erases all appeal to join or stay at the club in any circumstance. But with Champions League football on the cards, there’s at least a better chance that Harry Kane would want to stay, along with some others (at least those who haven’t completely borked their reputation this season. So basically Giovani Lo Celso and that’s it). There would be more cash on hand to try and improve the club. All after a season they’ve spent kicking their own ass as hard as they can.

This doesn’t even consider the teams that would avoid relegation in a voided season or those that would miss out on promotion from the Championship. The former would be saved but the latter would miss out on huge, Premier League paydays as well.

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There are only ugly answers, and with each passing day it feels like the league and teams are going to have to face some of the uglier ones.

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