There are numerous reports circulating today about Premier League discussions over resuming the season for Everton and the other 19 clubs.
The coronavirus pandemic has left the current season in a state of severe limbo and Everton, along with all the other Premier League clubs are no nearer knowing when, or if for certain, the current season will be resuming.
Of course compared to the health and wellbeing of society as a whole, football is of no real importance. However, that being said, sport could help to revive people’s morale and it is a big part of the modern economy, so it’s not completely frivolous to talk about re-starting the campaign.
Anyway, yesterday the Premier League held another set of talks to consider their rather pompously named ‘Project Restart’. This is the embryonic plan to get the 2019-20 season completed as soon as possible.
As yet though there doesn’t appear to be any unanimous consensus about when, or how, the season should be back up and running. There are debates about whether games can be played behind closed doors at neutral venues, with clubs apparently opposed to that idea.
Interestingly of course, for Everton, the first game back would be the derby at Goodison Park. If that game was to be played at a neutral venue, instead of the grand old lady, it might be a factor in the result. Although in truth of course, if there are no fans in the ground, it probably wouldn’t matter where the match was played.
Following the UK Government’s announcement on Sunday of a gradual relaxation plan for the lockdown, it’s possible that the season might be able to start again anytime from the 1 June.
In addition, there is a lot of money at stake too, with reports that the Premier League could be required to pay back millions in TV revenue even if the season is resumed.
There’s another complication, as UEFA have set a deadline of 25 May for European leagues to come up with tangible plans for restarting their respective seasons. They are though willing to extend that deadline, which always looked ludicrously optimistic, if clubs are struggling to find an agreement in time, as they are in England.
So all things considered, it does look almost certain that an attempt will be made to get the current campaign finished as soon as possible, but we still don’t know exactly when.
I’m not sure what my view on all this is. On the one hand, obviously I along with most, if not all Evertonians, can’t help but think it would be great if the season was annulled and Liverpool were denied the title!
But that’s very, very unlikely to happen. There’s too much at stake, not least financially, and anyway the Premier League with its near-sycophantic obsession with the Kopites, (or should I say Klopites), would move heaven and earth to avoid that outcome!
However, if the current campaign is finished behind closed doors and at neutral grounds, then that would raise some legitimate questions about the eventual league standings and whether some results would have been different in a normal campaign.
Home and away does have an impact on results, although not so much for the top teams and perhaps not as much as it did in the past. In particular though, there is some evidence that it can have a significant importance on teams struggling to avoid relegation.
Generally sides that do avoid the drop, tend to have decent form at home and pick up points there regularly. So if those team’s matches are played at fan-less neutral venues, might it not lead to some anomalous results, which prove crucial in deciding who stays up and who goes down?
Looking at the Premier League table and there is little in it between Brighton in fifteenth place and two of the bottom three clubs.
For example, Brighton have the daunting prospect of playing Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United in three of their next four upcoming games, but those are all at home.
While it’s unlikely they would get much from those games, they might snatch a few precious points against say Arsenal or United. And how crucial might those points prove?
It’s always very difficult to assess the impact of supporters on your team’s performances. But looking at the success of a club like Burnley, and it does indicate that a passionate and vocal home crowd can regularly swing games your way and determine your season, more or less.
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Of course Everton too know all about that, and Blues fans have played a big part in some crucial games both recently and in the past as well.
Think back to that derby at Goodison last season for example, when Everton managed to hold the Reds to a 0-0 draw and those two dropped points contributed mightily to denying them the title.
For Everton, although a relegation battle is not now likely, there is still the very slim hope of qualifying for Europe next season, and so that Goodison factor could prove vital in helping secure a place in the Europa League.
All in all then there seem to be an awful lot of things still to be resolved before the season can resume. And if it goes ahead as planned and these remaining matches are played at neutral grounds, it will create ongoing uncertainty about the legitimacy of results.