Only a few short weeks ago, Liverpool manages Jurgen Klopp was asked about the possibility of Liverpool being denied their inevitable Premier League championship victory . In response, he not only said that he didn’t think it was a point worth discussing, but he also said that he thought most Liverpool fans were ‘smart enough’ not to take such a suggestion seriously. A lot has changed since then. Klopp couldn’t possibly have known what was coming, and now Liverpool missing out in their first domestic triumph in thirty years looks increasingly likely.
For Liverpool fans, this will feel like nothing short of a tragedy. The club was two wins away from making it mathematically impossible for Manchester City to overhaul their lead, and with the sort of form City were in when the season was halted, it’s highly unlikely they would have won all of their remaining games anyway. The title was inches away from Liverpool’s grasp, and yet now it looks like it’s going to be wrested away. England’s non-league clubs have all had their seasons canceled
within the past week with promotions, relegations, and championships all declared null and void. This week we’ve heard that Scottish football is likely to head the same way. A precedent is being set, and the more competitions and leagues fall in line with it, the harder it will be for the Premier League not to follow suit.
Although there are many football fans up and down the country – especially those based in Manchester – who would be delighted to see Liverpool have their glory snatched away in the cruelest of circumstances, it’s impossible to escape the feeling that declaring the season null and void would be unfair to them. Even Ilkay Gundogan, the Manchester City midfielder, feels Liverpool should be awarded the title. His view has been echoed by several other football players and several other managers. Liverpool has been imperious this year. Their form may have faltered when they needed it most in cup competitions and in Europe, but in the league, they’ve been almost unstoppable. It feels only right and sporting that their efforts are recognized with a trophy – but unfortunately for Liverpool and the club’s fans, what’s right and sporting probably won’t come into this.
Even though the side only needed six more points to claim the title, nobody can say with one hundred percent certainty that they would have acquired those six points before the season ended. Unbelievable things happen in football sometimes. We're
less than five years removed from Leicester City winning the Premier League at odds of five thousand to one. This isn’t quite the same – Liverpool winning would be more like winning the jackpot on an online slots game with a return-to-player rate of more than 95%. Anyone who visits online slots websites regularly like Dove Casino will know that such a game will statistically return the majority of every £100 you spend on it regularly, but that the rate of return can’t be guaranteed. Sometimes, online
slots send you on a losing streak that defies the odds. Sometimes, football teams lose matches they should win on paper. Liverpool was incredibly close to having the title in the bag, but nearly isn’t good enough.
This isn’t just about Liverpool either. If their title victory stands, then the final league positions of every other club in the table stand, too. That’s a practical and legal nightmare for the Premier League and the football association. It would award
Chelsea the fourth and final Champions League qualifying berth at the expense of clubs like Manchester United, who were hot on their heels. It would shut several clubs out of the Europa League. Most unacceptably all, it would relegate Bournemouth, Aston Villa, and Norwich City. None of those sides are mathematically guaranteed to go down. Bournemouth is only in the relegation zone at all because they have an inferior goal difference to Watford and West Ham, who are level with them in points. With 27 points still to play for, relegating any of those sides would be grotesquely unfair. Any attempt to do so would likely be met with legal action, and cases could drag on for a long time.
Even if the bottom three clubs in the league at the moment did go down, how should their replacements be decided? Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion are likely to secure the top two positions in the Championship as things stand, but again, neither of them is mathematically secure in their positions. The four clubs below them aren’t even guaranteed a playoff place yet, let alone the right to promotion. No playoff games are currently possible, so would it be fair to promote Fulham purely because they hold third position in the table? Would it be fair to deny Bristol City, Millwall, and Cardiff City the chance to compete in the playoffs when they’re currently only a point away from them? Should Charlton Athletic, Luton Town, and Barnsley be relegated because they’re in the bottom three positions in that division?
The domino-effect of declaring Liverpool to be champions goes on and on, and the longer we look at it, the more we realize that it can&’t and shouldn’t be done.
Coming back to one of our earlier points, it isn’t fair to deny Liverpool the championship title. That remains true. Relegating other teams because Liverpool were declared winners is even less fair, though. Denying some teams from the division below the chance to be promoted to the cash-rich Premier League is even less fair than that. The knock-on effects of handing Liverpool the title are worse than the effects of not giving Liverpool the title at all, and therefore the fairest approach for all clubs – not just the one who plays at Anfield – is for the season to be written off, and for everybody to start again whenever it’s safe to resume playing football. Based on what we know at the moment, that probably won’t be until after the summer.
With apologies to Liverpool fans, we’ve reached our conclusion. It doesn’t feel good, but the answer to the question ‘is it right to give Liverpool the Premier League title,’ is ‘no.’