How to Cancel a Season

by Constantine Labrinos

A peek into the athletic fallout that will be the next season of European soccer

As COVID-19 continues to spread, sports leagues around the globe have begun to postpone or cancel their seasons. For most leagues, this idea is fairly disruptive; for European soccer, it's a free-for-all. By itself, European soccer is a complex ordeal. Trying to explain the logistics of Champions League and Europa League qualifiers to an unsuspecting person is like trying to explain to a crayfish the significance of the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. It just doesn’t work. That being said, trying to manage qualifiers while also addressing the complaints of the semi-autocratic leagues, all during a global pandemic, has been quite the challenge; however, as the number of cases rises, the prospect of finishing the season drops at the same rate. As the possibility of abandoning the remainder of the season becomes a reality, soccer fans have begun to question how a premature conclusion to the season would play out. What will happen to the last seven months of play? Who will be crowned champion? And how will tournament qualifications work? The ramifications of these decisions could drastically change the lives of players, the longevity of clubs, and the recording of stats alike. While the possibilities seem complex, the only logical option is to scrap the season in its entirety.

The four most important things that depend on the season’s validity are championships, relegations, new records or milestones, and tournaments. If all the individual leagues decide to count the last seven months as a finished season, their current leaders would be crowned champions. Teams at the bottom of the standings would be relegated. All broken records or milestones reached this year would count. And while this seasons’ Champions League and Europa League would have no winners, many teams would qualify for the 2020-2021 tournaments based on their league ranking. Thus, meaning that if the next year’s season is to happen, it would begin as if this season ended as scheduled. On the other hand, if the leagues decide to scrap the last seven months of play, the next season would be a continuation of the 2018-2019 season. Everything that happened in the last year would be wiped from official books. No champions would be crowned, no teams would move up or down, and no records would be broken. In addition, the Champions League and Europa League for the following year would either be cancelled due to a lack of qualification, or they would be a repeat of this year’s tournament with the same teams.

While the first option of just ending the season and moving on sounds the simplest, it isn’t logical. If one was to think of soccer as an ongoing experiment with each season being a new trial of that experiment, then counting a trial as concluded when it never actually finished would most likely skew the data inaccurately. While coming to conclusions based on trends works in some cases, there are many different moving parts within one league. For example, the Premier League has 20 teams and 9 games left per team. That is a total of 180 more matches that could change the standings for any given team. Some might say that scrapping the season would be unfair to Liverpool, who has a 25 point lead over Manchester City in second place. While Liverpool was surely on track to win, a season encapsulates more than just who won. Counting the season’s results prematurely would be unfair to Bournemouth, a team on the cusp of relegation from the Premier League. The only difference between them being relegated and them remaining is a single goal, and with nine games left in the season, that goal differential is bound to change. Although there are some cut and dry outcomes within the current season, the entirety of soccer in Europe isn’t cut and dry. Therefore, cancelling the season is the fairest course of action to take.