Deciding the Premier League outcome with six principles…

Date published: Saturday 14th March 2020 12:15

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Deciding the Premier League outcome
I’ve had a go at solving the conundrum of handling the current season not being completed by trying a principles-based approach. There were six principles I came up with:

1. Best of a Bad Job. No solution will be perfect. It is a case of picking the least bad one.

2. Keep it Simple. Simple solutions are preferable to complex ones. They are more likely to be accepted as reasonable.

3. Something to Show for It. As far as possible, we should resolve the issues of the season, rather than simply write it off after it has mostly been completed.

4. Do No Harm. Decisions that cause detriment to clubs should, where possible, be treated more conservatively than those that give rewards. Decisions should prioritise avoiding harm.

5. Known Unknowns. Some aspects of how the rest of the season might have played out are more uncertain than others.

6. Stay out of Court. There is potential for lawsuits by aggrieved clubs. Leagues should minimise the risk of this.

With these in mind, I came up with the following ideas:

A. Declare the season finished with league  rankings as at the last completed round of fixtures. So the final Premier League table would be after 28 games, and the final Championship table after 37. This is based on the first three principles (Best of a Bad Job, Keep it Simple and Something to Show for It).

B. Award trophies based on current standings. Liverpool and Leeds would become champions of their leagues. This places some weight on Do No Harm. Other clubs are less likely to object about missing out on a trophy than being relegated. West Brom, for example, might feel differently, but this seems to me to be the least bad option overall.

In Liverpool’s case Known Unknowns also applies, as the likely destination of the Premier League title had the season been completed is probably the most certain outcome under consideration.

C. Award European places according to the final rankings (step A). This is more controversial, because of the greater uncertainty around how the rest of the season might play out (Known Unknowns), but there are few options and I tried to give weight to Do No Harm.

D. No relegation, and by extension no promotion. This is an application of Do No Harm, also with an eye on Stay Out of Court. Leagues to do not want to get caught up in Wast-Ham-Sheffield-Utd-style court cases. I am also conscious of the uncertainty around relegation outcomes (Known Unknowns). In this scenario Bolton just get lucky.

Clubs that might have been promoted will no doubt feel disgruntled, but it is for the most part unclear who they might have been (Known Unknowns). Some, eg Leeds, have the consolation of being crowned champions.

E. Any teams left in cup competitions get byes into the later stages of next year’s corresponding competions. This is again based on the first three principles (Best of a Bad Job, Keep it Simple and Something to Show for it).

For teams still in the Champions or Europa Leagues this may mean the later stages of the leagues need to be adjusted to accommodate a small number of additional teams. There would also be some offsetting shrinkage in the earlier rounds.

Obviously these ideas leave plenty of specific details still to be resolved (especially point E). Also it’s possible to choose different principles or weight them differently. But I think the principles at least have the benefit of giving some structure to the decisions.
Robert Verne, London


I was surprised to see all the discussion on F365 about different ways of ending the season, because I haven’t seen the issue mentioned in any newspapers. Surely the most obvious option is to fully complete the season as soon as possible, and whether that happens in June, July, August, September or October, and though certain players may disappear because their contracts are up, it is surely preferable to any kind of formula being employed to calculate where clubs should finish at the end of this season.

If the Euros are expendable as they seem to be, the only issue is the impact on the following season. If that has to be truncated, teams could agree to play each other once for a 19-game season. That might not be entirely satisfactory, but at least everyone would know the rules going in to the competition, which is not something which could be said of any ad hoc finish to the season.
Lev (Arsenal fan, no dog in this fight)


For all those saying that in the event of a cancelled PL season Liverpool should be given the title………All I want to add on this matter is that Liverpool have lost 5 of their last 6 matches and that surely that form suggests that they are on track for the biggest collapse of all time
Tom (Premier League Neutral)


It seems clear to me what the obvious answer is to the resumption of football. With the government estimating 10-14 weeks until the peak of the coronavirus, that takes us to the end of May/June at best.

The next World Cup is, as we all know, being played in December in Qatar in 2022. I can well imagine the European leagues coordinating so that THIS season concludes between September and November this year.

The next season will start in February 2021 and conclude in November 2021. And so on. No disruption for the World Cup 2022. International tournaments will be played in the build up to Christmas forever more and future generations will wonder why the Premier League was never played in the summer months.
John (Arsenal to repeat the Henry Norris Nobble please) Foster, Brighton


Dear Footie365,

Shame about the lack of football but postponement feels like the right call. Is this a good opportunity to align the football season with the Qatar World Cup?

If we started the season again after the transfer window, have the climax in November, break for when we get the predicted second peak in Winter of Covid-19, then start a new season in Feb wouldn’t that make us ship shape for 2022?

Cheers, I’ve enjoyed reading the site for the past 15 years, keep up the good work

Stay healthy everyone,


I’d say after 30 years all Liverpool fans are happy for the season to be declared finished at this point and for Liverpool to be crowned champions. To be fair they deserve it. Miles ahead of everyone else. Having *league finished early due to the suspension of season, would kill them if they had to wait another 10 years or longer for their next one.

Similarly if Villa got relegated, I’ll be able to hold on to the fact that McGinn coming back would have saved our season.

When this ends no one knows. No one will be happy with a Void season, a simulated season or a finish it now season. There are too many reasons why everything has to get pushed back in my opinion.

Whichever way this plays out the 2019/20 season will have a massive asterisk next to it and then maybe next season as well.
Pete, Canberra


Ok here’s my solution….to be executed only IF the current season can’t be finished in the given timeframe (say end of June).

Suspend all activity until the beginning of August, giving players a break. Allow clubs to extend players’ contracts for an extra 6 months if needed

Play the last 10 games of the 2019/20 season, plus finish play-offs, domestic cups (and European competition if possible).

Take a one month break to reset, have a transfer window, sort out fixtures.

Start the 2020/21 season around December and each team plays each other once rather than twice. So in the Premier League each team will play 9 home games and 10 away or vice versa (down to the fixture computer). European competition goes straight to knockout (with 64 teams).

Season finishes as usual in May, in time for Euro 2021

Not perfect, some complex issues still there. But overall the fairest solution.
Ivan, LFC (or just give us the trophy now)


As much as I’d like the season to carry on as Utd have a chance of champions league, I’d also be happy for it to be voided for obvious reasons (maybe next year will be their year LOL). However, the fairest way for me seems to be to postpone until next seasons normal start date.

Let’s just come back in August with whatever shiny new players we all have and finish the last 10 games or so instead of starting the new season. Then we rather cut next season to a 30 game league – half way through the season, split top half and bottom half into 2 mini leagues who then play home and away like they used to do in Scotland (or do they still do that? Don’t know, don’t care, sorry).

It’s probably the fairest way of finishing this year but then stuffs up next year as well.

I thought this might work when I started writing but fuck it, let’s void the season, hide indoors with our hand sanitsers and bog roll and come out again when it’s safe.
Jon (Cape Town, stay safe everyone)


Liverpool has won the 2020/21 Premier League. Poll all 20 teams on who should be crowned champions, and the answer would be unanimous.
Danny (It’s a shame they will go into the record books as Liverpool* – or is it?), Austin Spurs


As intimated by your article, we’re gonna end up with football’s equivalent to Duckworth-Lewis aren’t we? It will surely be equally incomprehensible. Still the fairest way to do it. And a method that can be adopted for future cases of a similar nature. And you gotta start that database of stats at some point, so why not now.

Or maybe just get the developers of FM20 to sim the end of the season using current form and stats to date. Or FIFA (as the previous mailboxer suggested). Each team must play 2 v 2. Must be a different two for every match. 9/10 games left, means you pick your best 20 FIFA players in your first team squad to compete. You can still broadcast the games too! Better than nothing. Can’t stay in to watch football, can’t go out to meet people. Tf else are we supposed to do!
Suds, Durban (I know it’s serious and everything, but f*ck me weekends will be boring now)


No such thing as too late now
I had a thought today about Odion Ighalo and I wanted to write in about it but thought, that United v Lask game was a couple days ago now, it’s too late to talk about that. But then I realized, that is going to be the most recent football game for the next while…

I had a feeling before Ighalo put a red shirt on in Manchester that he was going to make a difference. That he would come in and belong. Something about the atmosphere reminded me of when we brought in Henrik Larsson so many years ago. Larsson clicked right away, just like Odion is doing. I don’t know exactly why I thought Ighalo would enjoy similar success, but I think it is down to Manchester feeling United again. The Red Devils are playing like they used to, Old Trafford sounds like it used to, the players are attacking like they used to, and no matter if he’s the long-term solution or not, the manager on the sidelines looks like he belongs there. And maybe just maybe, we’re finally signing players like we used to.
Jamin (Toronto, Canada, or if you want to be a local: Torronnah)


A response to ‘Coronavirus, football and the Government’
Like every mailbox contributor I don’t know whether my two pence will see the light of a crisp Mailbox day, but having read the anonymous contributor’s headline post on Friday afternoon I feel compelled to write in because I found myself fully understanding the points, wanting to agree wholeheartedly but feeling obligated to disagree reluctantly. I am not one for hyperbole but it was a post which provokes a self examination to make you question what it is to be human in unprecedented and uncertain times. How strongly do you believe in the principles of freedom, free speech, democracy and liberty our great nation has always defended even when doing is difficult and may cost lives? Does failure to defend those principles cost more lives later on? I wish I had the answers.

Take the over-arching premise of the post suggesting the Government cares about money and the economy before anything else; to be honest I agree with this assertion but I wouldn’t level it as a damning criticism or even suggest it’s something we didn’t at least subconsciously already know. I suppose my response to the economy paragraph can be summed up with the words ‘well yes.’ The grim reality is somebody has to look out for the bigger picture and ultimately this is the Government’s job. These are the decisions we send our politicians to the famous ancient halls of Westminster to make on our behalf because we’d be pretty rubbish at making them ourselves.

I appreciate the view of a hospital worker obviously but to give some context I am 31 and have spent 7 years in the same small to medium business with approx. 20 staff. We sell goods online and do a lot of work with a well known internet giant sharing it’s name with a rainforest. The workplaces’ statistical risk of exposure to Coronavirus is relatively small but our risk of going out of business from an economic depression driven by the Coronavirus crisis is much greater. It’s all well and good having Statutory Sick Pay from the first day of self-isolation but even that is meaningless if the employer isn’t there anymore and there’s no job to go back to. Not to be flippant but this is peak business for hospitals, rather less so if you sell garden furniture on the internet.

I won’t debate the action/inaction of the British Government compared to other countries too much other than to say doing things because everyone else is doing them is the worst reason to do anything and it appears we’re currently the only nation with a leader prepared to admit he is largely powerless. Other nations’ leaders are doing their best to ‘do something’ and make people feel better with the ‘trust me I’ll stop it’ line which acts as acceptable cover for extreme draconian erosion of all liberty but they will likely find they were unable to write such cheques in a few weeks time. You say schools are being kept open to protect the economy but it’s a measure which also gives your hospital half a chance – close the schools and either you lose half of your staff to look after their kids or worse still they stay with grandparents and force them into your hospital en masse as kids are great virus carriers but pretty bulletproof to its effects.

We need to accept the Government will look for the right balance between public health/risk and economic stability, that’s their job and it will mean some people may die who didn’t need to, it will also mean more of us have jobs and lives to return to when this is over than might be the case in other countries. I will correct a few inaccuracies in your assertions though; UEFA didn’t put public health above the almighty dollar at least before anybody else – national associations were putting games behind closed doors long before UEFA did or said anything, that’s why Anfield was full on Wednesday and the Parc-des-Princess was not. UEFA’s leadership on the issue is to schedule a top priority super urgent meeting for five days from now. I also take issue with the line about our Government not taking the necessary action to protect us because the reality is there is no action which could protect us from this now – short of going house to house and shooting us all in the head. That’d do it but would severely damage the economy…

Oh and one thing actually football related; if we hadn’t had the fucking winter break we’d have the title in the cabinet by now. That is all.
Martin (YNWA) (Good luck everyone. God knows we’re gonna need it)


Lucky break for Spurs
What a week for spurs….

Option 1 – cancel the season, not a big loss for us, the seasons gone anyway

Option 2 – delay for a month, plenty of time for Kane and Son to get fit

Happy with either to be honest
Gary (our season ended Tuesday night anyway)


If this email gets published, that’s three days in a row there’s US soccer on F365….the Americans are coming!! Also, since the Premier league is over, this week technically counts as internationals week, so cue all the boring emails like mine!!

First off, my sincere apologies to TX Bill for using the phrase “leaps and bounds more popular”. It was such a grotesque oversight that even people not looking to be offended all the time, were, well, offended. Also, my sincere apologies to (former) President of US Soccer, Carlos Cordeiro. Easily offended folks like me led to an honest and caring man losing his job over some in-offensive comment he made.

So yah, I should clarify, the current court case in the US relates to the national teams. The basic gist is that the USSF, which employs both the men and women, does not compensate male and female players equally for similar tournaments. The players’ argument is that, beyond prize money, discrepancies which are out of USSF control, they generate much more revenue for USSF that they are not being compensated for. You can google them yourselves, but lots of credible articles which show that the US Women’s team generated slightly more revenue in the past 5yrs for the US Soccer Federation, their employer, than the men (but definitely most certainly not leaps and bounds more!!!). Given they add as much if not more to the coffers, they argued that they should be paid equally.

When it comes to popularity, many of these female players, on account of actually winning, are household names, and while no one says the men are not also popular, just not quite the same level. Here’s why: as TX Bill points out, the Women’s game is only popular once every 4 years. I’d make that once every 2 years when you add the Olympics. Guess what, the men’s team is on the same cadence…except for the instances they don’t qualify for the world cup (hello Russia 2018!), probably because some other men were more pacey and more powerful then they were. To make matters worse, Olympic football is more popular than the Gold Cup (analogous to your Euros), admittedly more because of the Olympics allure than because it’s the women, but still.

The domestic women’s game here is a total shambles. Kinda like the men’s game before the most recent incarnation of the MLS (a few near bankruptcies aside). Maybe it’s the total lack of investment in the domestic women’s game, maybe it’s the fact that people can only stomach slow and weak football once every two years, maybe it’s that Victoria Beckham wasn’t good at football, but the cause of the domestic failure is still not known. A real shame though, because the money and the popularity of the women’s national team every few years does indicate that fans do enjoy the entertainment value, and that there is possibility for more consistent domestic popularity. Most players moved to Europe where their nascent leagues are really finding some semblance of stability, so at least they’re getting regular football at a high level.

Sorry, this got way longer than intended. I’m guessing most English football fans don’t care and that’s fine. Anyway, let’s all get back to finding ways to not award the league to Liverpool or at least asterisk their win (it’s a joke DeSelby!!)
Niraj (used way too many brackets in the mail itself, so…) Tampa FL


Just open the transfer window
Football 365,

Surely we should be able to sign a petition to ensure that while there is no football on, at least the transfer window is opened! Already we have seen multiple Football sites trying to fill their columns with new stories talking about transfers that just can’t happen, but the worst thing is, i cant help myself, I’m addicted! I’ll wait till midnight to read bbc’s gossip column just to read bullshit! Just open the feckin window! At least the medicals may be interesting! Once the league resumes in about 6 weeks time (hopefully!), there will be a bit of tension to the delayed finish to the Premier League, players won’t be match fit and how interesting would it be if utd swapped Grealish for Lingard, Jones, cash plus Gomes on loan with Villa? Surely that would get them out of trouble? What if Norwich could get a Di Canio/Cantona player? I’m thinking Ballotelli!
Mourinho to do a bit of transfer magic perhaps?
Colinger 39.5

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