(Updated May 19)
The question of how the coronavirus is going to affect the English football leagues is obviously on many people’s minds. I have some basic Q&A below, and I’m tracking the latest news.
Current Status of English Leagues:
Premier League: Talking it over
Championship: Talking it over
League One: Talking it over, probably ending the season with some form of promotion/relegation.
League Two: Talking it over, unanimous in ending the season but working out promotion/relegation questions.
National League (tiers 5 and 6): Abandoned the season, still working out promotion/relegation.
Everybody Else: Season null and void, like it never happened.
Update May 19
There is really nothing new, especially on the Premier League and Championship. Leagues One and Two met and decided to … meet again to discuss it more. League Two will probably drop the season, but they have requested of the Football League that relegation to the National League be suspended. The League is considering that. League One wasn’t as unanimous but, I suspect, will also drop the season.
The Championship wishes to play on but is, you guessed it, still talking things over.
Update May 8
The Athletic is reporting that next week Leagues One and Two will abandon their seasons, then work out a system for determining championships, promotion and relegation. Here’s the story, which is behind a firewall — but I highly recommend The Athletic subscription for all sorts of great sports journalism.
The German Bundesliga is re-starting May 16, without supporters. The English Premier League and Championship are hoping to restart in June, to finish the season in July, but the details are proving tricky. Their own medical staff has concerns, and the question of where to play games is also a problem. Teams facing relegation really want to play in their own stadiums, but some local authorities are nervous about having games staged in a stadium in the middle of city.
The next big decision day is Monday, when the Premier League clubs will vote on the outline of the latest plan.
Update April 28
The Premier League is trying to aim for a June 8 restart — almost certainly without supporters in the stands — and finish the season by the end of July. But even that desire is not unanimous among English clubs. And with France and some other European countries already cancelling their seasons, there is no unanimity on finishing in England.
Update April 24:
The National League in England (tiers 5 and 6) has cancelled their season, leaving promotion and relegation under debate. This means that only the top four tiers — the Premier League and Football League — are still trying to fins their season. And that, especially for the Premier League, is all about TV money.
Meanwhile, the top Dutch league has also cancelled their season. And UEFA is considering ways to figure out who qualifies for European competitions next season — including having national associations (like the FA) decide.
Update April 17:
There is really no news, but the Premier League clubs met on Friday the 17th and remain committed to finishing the 2019-20 season, but with no date in mind. The June 30 deadline mentioned in the April 6 update remains an issue, but it isn’t all-defining.
Meanwhile, looks like the Champions League Final could be as late as August 29!
With all that, there is also no news on ticket refunds.
Meanwhile, here is a good piece from the BBC about the financial difficulties many clubs are facing.
Update April 6:
FIFA, the world governing body, has suggested that all domestic league seasons be suspended indefinitely. What this really means is that they are trying to make it possible to go past the June 30 deadline, when player contracts end, and also move the summer transfer window, which was supposed to start July 1.
The big picture here is that they are beginning to prioritize finishing this season — somehow, sometime, with or without fans — over starting next season on time. I would take this to mean that the 2020-21 season will (A) not start in August and (B) not be a normal schedule in any sense of the word.
Meanwhile, if this season goes on too long, UEFA says, the Champions League and Europa League could be abandoned entirely.
Update April 3:
As laid out in this BBC story, the May 1 “resumption date” is now (predictably) scrapped, and the Premier League will ask players to take a pay cut to help support other staff and the National Health Service. As for what this means for the rest of this season and next, all is up in the air of course. As discussed in this article, there are five basic options:
- Scrap this whole season and start over whenever you can.
- End the season now, somehow calculate promotions and relegations, and unleash a world of lawsuits
- Set a deadline (probably June 30 for legal reasons) to try and finish the season however they can
- Play behind closed doors, which in the near term seems inevitable
- Finish this season whenever you can, then try to figure out next season.
Update April 1: Champions League and Europa League suspended indefinitely. Women’s Euros moved from 2021 to 2022.
Update March 27: The Athletic (paywall): Behind-the-scenes consensus building to cancel Premier League season.
Update March 26: Much of non-league English football abandons season, voids all results. This means that below tier 6 of the English Football Pyramid, it will be as if this season never happened: no promotions, no relegations, no trophies. It will be “as you were” for next season — whenever that is.
Meanwhile, tiers 1 through 6 – that’s the Premier League, Football League, and National League — still hope to finish their season, somehow and some time.
Update March 23: Players assuming games will go on without supporters.
Update March 18: The Athletic: Trying to work out how (or if) the current season might be finished.
Update March 17: European Championships put off until 2021
Update March 15: BBC: Q&A on what this could mean for promotion, relegation, trophies, and next season.
Many people are deciding not to travel, including some who had already bought tickets and are hoping to get a refund.
So I thought I would put together a list of Frequently Asked Questions, with a few disclaimers:
- I am in no way a health professional, nor do I have any experience whatsoever with epidemiology.
- I have no special insight from the clubs, brokers, or any governmental agencies.
- Some of what I will share is my own personal opinion, based on nothing more than that.
- This is not the place for up-to-the-minute information, but I will try to provide links to those places.
Is it safe to go to Europe or the UK right now?
The State Department has issued a level-4 do not travel alert.
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) currently says to avoid all non-essential travel to Europe. Click here for the latest
Another great source is the World Health Organization. Here is their page for daily updates.
If I have a ticket for a game that’s been postponed, do I get a refund?
Whoever you bought your ticket from, contact them.
My policy is that 100% of any refund that comes my way will be passed along to people who bought from me, as a refund or credit towards future purchases.
If I have a ticket and decide not to go, even though the game happens with supporters, do I get a refund?
If you bought from the club, ask them, but I doubt it. If you bought from a third party, same thing.
If you bought from me, the normal policy is we try to resell your tickets and get you as much of a refund as we can. London games do better than Liverpool/Manchester games, but this market has now completely died anyway.
What will become of the season — the championships, promotions, relegations, etc.?
Nobody knows. But the leagues are desperate to finish the season, even if it means playing all summer without fans in the stadiums.
Are clubs going to close because of this?
Since most lower-league clubs depending massively on ticket sales for revenue, I think so. This is like a tsunami hitting the world of soccer, and some things are just no going to survive. Many clubs have already laid people off, and some are asking players to take a pay cut.
Here is a good video on the economic impact on English clubs: