The coronavirus continues to throw up more questions than answers in society and it’s no different in the world of sport.
With the Premier League currently in lockdown, and cases continuing to increase across the country, the proposed resumption at the start of April seems incredibly optimistic at this point.
Instead, events further away, such as Euro 2020, are being thrown into doubt and most of the talk across football is around whether all tournaments should be cancelled for the season and league standings left as they are.
Other figures, such as West Ham’s Karren Brady, have said that the season should be declared null and void, though Liverpool should still be crowned champions.
It’s a subject that’s guaranteed to divide fans up and down the country, and whilst most people would argue that Liverpool’s huge lead means they deserve the Premier League title, the issue of Champions League qualification, relegation and promotion from the Championship is a much harder one to sort out.
The first issue is that not everyone has played the same number of fixtures at this point. Aston Villa sit in 19th in the table but would move up to 16th if they won their game in hand.
Secondly, teams will obviously not have the same remaining fixtures – certain teams will have easier run-ins than others.
But then fixtures don’t always pan out as they appear on paper. There is often a team in the midst of a relegation dogfight that puts together a seemingly impossible run to stay up and there’s usually a mid-table team in the Championship that goes on a late surge to get into the play-offs and subsequently get promoted.
Premier League run-ins of previous years have displayed this time and again, highlighting that it would be extremely controversial to finish the season now. Here are the highlights of previous seasons.
At the bottom of the table, Wigan sat bottom with Wolves and West Ham also in the relegation places. But Wigan would go on to stay up, finishing 16th. Wolves also survived as Birmingham and Blackpool were relegated on the final day along with rock-bottom West Ham.
We all know about the final-day drama that handed Man City the title, but at this stage in the season, Man Utd were top by a point.
QPR, Wolves and Wigan sat in the bottom three. Wigan again escaped the drop and QPR managed the feat too, but Wolves went down with Bolton and Blackburn.
The title was never in doubt this time, with Man Utd cantering to it in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season ahead of Man City and Chelsea. Tottenham held a seven-point lead over Arsenal at this stage, but in typical Spurs fashion, they bottled it and were pipped to Champions League qualification by their rivals.
Things were less dramatic with relegation, with Wigan, QPR and Reading staying in the bottom three places.
Though Liverpool literally let the title slip during the season, it was Chelsea who were in control of the title race at this stage of the season. Come the end of the season though, Man City would overtake both to win their second title in three years.
Sunderland completed the great escape over the final nine games with Norwich taking their place. Cardiff and Fulham were in the other two relegation spots at this stage and both were still there come the end of the season.
There was no drama in the top four as Chelsea won the league title with Man City, Arsenal and Man Utd retaining the remaining spaces over the closing weeks.
The real story came at the bottom, with Nigel Pearson pulling off a minor miracle to keep Leicester up despite being seven points off safety at this stage. Burnley and QPR filled the other spots during the duration, with Hull City replacing Leicester.
Leicester’s great escape the previous season was overshadowed by their incredible title win in 2015/16, and at this stage of the season they were five points clear of Spurs in second.
In one of the rare instances, the top-four remained the same, with Man City and Arsenal filling the other places, the Europa League spots all stayed the same, filled by Man Utd, Southampton and West Ham, and Aston Villa, Norwich and Newcastle all remained in the relegation places.
Chelsea’s league title was never in doubt, with Antonio Conte’s side having built up a lead of 10 points. The top four would remain the same, with Spurs, Man City and Liverpool making up the rest of it.
The North-East endured a nightmare season as Hull, Sunderland and Middlesbrough stayed in the relegation places over duration of the last nine games.
Man City were cruising to the title at this stage, with a 16-point gap over Man Utd, with Spurs and Liverpool remaining in the top four.
Things weren’t looking good for Crystal Palace at the time, but they picked up 17 points from their remaining nine games to leapfrog Swansea, who joined Stoke and West Brom in going down.
In one of the best title races of recent years, Man City led Liverpool by a single point at this stage, and that is how the season would end for the two.
Chelsea were sixth with a game in hand and made that count as they finished third, with Spurs in fourth and Arsenal being the team to miss out as a result.
Huddersfield and Fulham were already cut-adrift at the bottom and were joined by Cardiff, who were also in the bottom three at the time.
So if previous seasons are anything to go by, using the current standings to decide issues such as relegation could be unfair on a number of teams, especially with four points separating 15th and 19th.
Champions League and Europa League qualification looks to be just as tight, with five points separating fourth and seventh in the table and then two points between eighth and 11th. And then there’s Man City’s potential ban to add to the list of factors, meaning more teams could be pulled into the race for the European spots.
At least the title race is beyond any doubt…
It appears that those in power have a lot to go through during the Premier League’s emergency meeting on Thursday.