The Premier League is indefinitely suspended because of COVID-19 coronavirus. 10 days ago, the league said matches would not resume until at least April 30th and that the FA rule requiring the season to end before June 1st had been waived. Less than two weeks later, that end-of-April date is looking incredibly optimistic, and league shareholders are expected to release an updated timeline coming out of their next meeting, scheduled for April 3rd. And while it looks as if we will soon have a better idea of when they’d like the season to resume (which I’m sure will be changed again as the pandemic continues), we haven’t had much news at all on what that resumed season will look like.
The Independent recently reported that clubs have discussed a plan that would put the teams in isolated camps “World Cup-style” located in the midlands and/or London in June or July to finish the season in games-every-few-days-sprint. This seems like a pie in the sky, fantasy-world solution with so many logistical hurdles to clear that I seriously doubt it will happen. That said, it would make for a fantastic television event.
There have been a number of other solutions floated since the season was suspended, including letting the table stand as is and giving teams three points for any games in hand. I don’t think cancelling and expunging the season is off the table; the FA has already done that for all football below the National League on the men’s side and for all football below the WSL and Championship on the women’s side.
On the list of priorities, ensuring health, safety, and general well-being in society come well before restarting entertainment. But eventually, how to finish the Premier League season / determine a winner is a question that somebody is going to have to answer. Here at TSF (and across the football world, I think), we’d like to avoid the cancellation and expungement option, so we’ve come up with some suggestions to help the FA out. They are generally ordered from realistic to unrealistic, which, strangely, is loosely inversely correlated to how fun they’d be.
- Single-elimination tournament: seeding would be based on the current table, bottom eight teams play an additional match to determine the four that join the remaining 12 for a Round of 16-on-down tournament.
- Same tournament, altered football rules: possibilities include selecting a player or players from the opposing team who cannot play. Forcing an outfield player to play keeper and/or a keeper to play striker. Goals scored from outside the box are worth two, goals scored from 25+ yards out are worth three. Eliminating offside. Eliminating Mike Dean. Eliminating referees entirely and having the players call their own fouls.
- 3 or 5-a-side matches: played on a smaller field or futsal court. Emphasizes close-control and skill. Who wouldn’t want to watch it? Fantastic for Arsenal: it’s the perfect setup for Mesut Özil — all the skill, none of the running! Sidenote: I’m now going to “waste” at least a couple hours figuring out the best 5-a-side lineups in the Premier League.
- Keepy-Uppy competition: table finish place determined by how long your team can keep the ball up. Might take a while. We’d probably need substitution rules and provisions for players to go to the bathroom, eat, and sleep.
- Any competition between managers based on football: Mikel Arteta is the youngest manager in the league. Penalty kicks, 1-v-1, you name it — I’m taking him. Now if it was something like the pie-eating contest suggested a few bullets below...
- Football-volleyball tournament: but only if this guy is allowed to play.
- Spelling Bee: teams would be forced to nominate a non-native English speaker. On second thought, strike that. That rule might save some teams from themselves.
- Eurovision-style song contest: we already know new players have to perform as their “initiation” when they join a new club. Just put that on a bigger stage! Secret rule: if anybody brings this back, they automatically win the title for their team. That link is different from David Luiz, for the record.
- Great British Baking Show Competition: one baker from each team, bringing back Mary Berry, Mel, and Sue for extra scrummy-ness. BUT NO SOGGY BOTTOMS!
- Pie-Eating Contest: I’ve got a list of favorites in my mind but that is where they will stay. Making jokes about people’s weight isn’t cool. Seriously, don’t do it. Plot-twist: the pies the contestants must eat are made by the players doing the Great British Baking Show competition.
- Video game competition: FIFA, Fortnite, Animal Crossing, Frogger (the original animal crossing). The game doesn’t really matter. Actually, retro games only. Bring on the arcade Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, and Pong.
- Silly-walking competition: to be judged by the Ministry of Silly Walks, of course.
- Chess-Boxing tournament: yes, chess-boxing is exactly what it sounds like. Competitors play a round of chess, then fight a round of boxing. The winner can be determined by checkmate or K.O.
- Nickelback listening contest: youngest player on each team competes to see who can listen the longest with going crazy. Come to think of it, this might run afoul of the Geneva Conventions.
- Zoolander-esque modeling walk-off: one-footed players would fit right in, ya know, because Derek can’t turn left. *stares directly at camera in Blue Steel*
- Let an animal decide: possibilities include putting team logos on objects on a counter and seeing what order a cat knocks them off. Finding the offspring of Paul the Octopus (the Cephalopod who somewhat-accurately predicted the 2010 World Cup winners) and letting it choose. Puppies. Nothing specific, just puppies. But actually, puppies like Jimmy Fallon uses to predict Super Bowl winners. Bonus for puppies: we can give them cute, player-related names like Pierre-Emerick AuBARKeyang and RichSNARLson.
Thinking about animals for that last option sparked one more idea:
- Something to do with Carole Baskin: yes, tigers would be involved. No, I don’t know exactly how.