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ENDGAME: How will the rest of the season be resolved - if at all? ian doyle examines the five options facing the reds.

Byline: IANDOYLE

NO sooner had the Premier League announced it was suspending the season over fears of the spread of coronavirus, the questions were asked.

How is the campaign going to be ended? And will it be ended? With Liverpool 25 points clear at the summit and within touching distance of a first title in 30 years, many Reds supporters are fearing such hopes will be scuppered.

Nine games remain for most, a not inconsiderable number but still less than a quarter of the campaign.

The Premier League are expected to reconvene several times over the coming weeks to finalise some sort of action plan.

So, what might be on the table? Carry on as normal Much will depend on how much time there will be to complete the season when fixtures are resumed.

While April 4 is the expected date for the return, the likelihood is it will be pushed back later as the coronavirus reaches its expected peak.

If Euro 2020 is put back a year, that buys more time. June 30 is the likely date by which the season must be completed, given any players at the end of their contract would become free agents and could have agreed deals elsewhere, although a 28-day extension can be triggered if both parties agree.

A report in the Mail has suggested some Premier League clubs could refuse to restart the season if some of their players are unavailable through the illness.

And then there's the question of whether fans will be let into the stadium on the resumption of games.

Chances? It's a pipedream to think matters will return to what they were beforehand. Void the domestic season completely Reports have also claimed there are a number of Premier League clubs keen to see the current season struck from the records completely.

Certainly, there are those with a vested interest happy to see the back of a campaign where they have failed to reach expectations. We all know who they might be.

By contrast, there are others - Liverpool, Leicester City, Sheffield Utd, Wolves surely among them - who would be keen to continue for varying reasons.

That's without even mentioning the outcry it would cause among the likes of Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion at missing out on possible promotion to the money-rich Premier League.

Chances? It's the easiest option logistically, but the legal challenges could essentially bankrupt the Premier League. They won't want that.

Void the domestic season and take the points forward to the next season A radical option that would at least reward teams for their effort this season, if not in terms of immediate silverware.

This season would be declared void, but the points total - with tallies increased by an overall average for teams who haven't reached the 29-game mark in the Premier League - would be carried into the new campaign.

Liverpool would start next season with 82 points and Norwich 21, but at least Manchester City would have a full 38 games to overturn the Reds' 20-plus points lead at the top.

Chances? Far too revolutionary, although it would make for an interesting transfer market given some clubs would have a massive advantage over others.

Cancel the domestic season Not the same as voiding the campaign. This would essentially draw a line under the season, and say that where teams are after the points tallies are averaged out is where they finish. Chances? This would be extremely unlikely and unfair given the point of a league is everyone plays each other twice. The integrity of the competition would be questioned. Continue the season behind closed doors Players, certainly those with a chance of a medal, will want to play as soon as possible. They won't want to give up their opportunity for glory having worked so hard.

And imagine being a player for a team in a relegation zone, who knows there are winnable games coming up to take them out of danger? Football will restart at some point. It won't stop forever. And it would be a lot easier to get the current campaign out of the way, no matter how.

The sooner the better, though. And that could easily mean games being played behind closed doors.

Some clubs will perhaps be missing players through being infected by coronavirus in much the same way other workplaces will be missing employees. If they feel it impossible to fulfill the fixture, and the medical evidence is there, then teams are awarded one point apiece.

Does this sound harsh, a little unsympathetic and extremely pragmatic? Perhaps. But the other alternatives are simply fraught with too many problems.

Chances? This seems the most sensible and fair resolution to a difficult situation. Premier League, over to you.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:IANDOYLE
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 14, 2020
Words:789
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