Italy has just completed its first weekend being completely shut down outside of trips to the pharmacy and grocery store. This is the current coronavirus situation that we live in, as Italy, Europe and the world continue to see cases rise, death counts rise and uncertainty only continues to mount no matter where you look these days.
Sports have become far, far down on the list of priorities.
And because this global pandemic doesn’t look it’s going to end any time soon, the decision that Serie A and the rest of Europe’s football leagues are being presented with is something we’ve never really seen before.
Do they call it quits for the season and start up again in August?
Do they try and fit in the remaining fixtures into a truncated schedule once Euro 2020 is postponed like it is expected to be?
Do we award a league title if there’s no chance of resuming the current season?
Should a league title be award?
What are the alternatives if a full schedule can’t be played?
There’s plenty to be considered — and all of this is going to be decided during a time where anything is certain and what lies ahead is completely up in the air. There’s plenty to be said on the matter at hand once something officially comes down and is announced, but until then, there’s probably just as much speculation about what should be done. Consider us one of those places to speculate.
Like the headline says, the question is easy: What should Serie A do?
The BWRAO roundtable has assembled for the first time in a long time. And don’t worry — we were properly socially distanced and made sure to cough into our arms.
With there still being no signs of the coronavirus pandemic slowing its unabated spread throughout Italy and Europe, the right thing to do now is to suspend the season, like most of Europe has done. UEFA has confirmed it, and European competitions need to be suspended until the worst is behind us. The appropriate isolation measures when taken on time and implemented effectively have worked to curb the growth of the illness in China and South Korea, and it now appears that things in Italy will have to follow the same bell-curve.
Ending the season in any other way will be considered unfair by one, more or most of the teams in the league, so the best thing would be to let the disease play out its natural lifecycle before resuming hostilities per the original fixtures list. Euro 2020 is likely to be pushed out to 2021 anyway, so that would not be a restriction in playing into the summer as will be required.
This has been the million-dollar question since games first started being shunted around. What will create a result that is considered fair? Is it more fair to have no result at all?
None of the ideas that have come out since the shutdown have been particularly satisfactory. Freezing the table where it is and awarding the scudetto would have caused an almighty tantrum amongst anyone not connected with Juventus. Not awarding any titles at all would have left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth, not to mention leave those at the bottom of the table wondering why they were still relegated. A playoff would have perhaps been more fair than the others, but would still have left an artificial taste to season’s end, with a surprise result potentially upturning two-thirds of a season’s worth of results.
All of those ideas, of course, were predicated on the idea that there wouldn’t be time to finish the season before Euro 2020 began in mid-June. Time, however, may no longer be the enemy. We won’t get official word on this until Tuesday, but it seems almost certain that the Euros will be postponed, either to next summer or December. UEFA had been resisting this for a long time, and it’s not difficult to see why. This year’s edition of the tournament is supposed to be the confederation’s ultimate showpiece, to be played in some of the biggest and best stadiums across the continent. The logistics of it must be immense. But as more and more countries have been forced to do battle with COVID-19 — including France and Spain, who both instituted Italy-style lockdowns this weekend — a postponement has become inevitable.
That’s yet another in a long line of unfortunate consequences that have come from this global crisis, but it’s also going to buy the time needed for Italy and the rest of the affected countries to bring their leagues to a satisfactory conclusion. The latest reports from La Repubblica (h/t Football Italia) say that the league intends to do just that, with an eye toward resuming play on May 3. That will still involve a bit of a race against time, as they would have to get things done by June 30, which is the day that player and coach contracts will expire. The fixture list will still be pretty damn congested, but the best way to finish things is to use their new time and get a complete season in — provided, of course, it’s safe to resume play in time.
Last night in Austin, Texas, the mayor announced that gatherings of 250 or more people are banned. The decision didn’t seem strange or out of line with anything else that’s going on across the country — or the world, for that matter — except for this: He said the decision remains in place until May 1. Nearly everything else I’ve seen has talked about two- or three-week increments, but the whole time I’ve been wondering if that’s even remotely possible.
I don’t see a way that Serie A finishes the season. I believe it’s a matter of time before the league and the cup are canceled.
You can’t play Serie A with multiple Sampdoria players testing positive, multiple Fiorentina players testing positive. You can’t play Serie A with Italians locked in their apartments across the country. Canceling the season would, of course, be a shame, but it would be no more a shame than a million other hard decisions being made across the globe right now. But from my perspective it would be better to call it a clean break and simply start planning for next year’s campaign, whatever that looks like. And let’s be honest: We know the league isn’t great at planning ahead; we may as well give them extra time to do so.
The “how” of ending the league is much trickier.
This is what I would do: End the league with no Scudetto, but retain the current table for European spots next year.
The former of those decisions (the Scudetto) simply cannot be made. Juve are a single point ahead of Lazio but had a head-to-head match in the near future. Anything could’ve happened, and we know that. To be honest, I don’t think as a Juve fan I want the Scudetto to be awarded to the Bianconeri, because the backlash from the rest of the league would be so, so severe. Also I’m not sure celebrating a league trophy is going to be much of a thing. If this were a situation like England, in which Liverpool is for all intents and purposes the champions already, then I’d be fine with calling it, but Serie A has three teams at the top.
The latter of those decisions (European spots) seems fair to me as well. The top three have separated themselves and deserve the Champions League, and Atalanta deserve it by either standard of measure that would be used (I assume the primary alternative would be reverting to last year’s table, in which they finished third). Plus they recently beat Roma and have a game in hand. That puts Roma in the Europa League and Napoli in the Europa League qualifiers. I think that seems fair to what has transpired in Serie A over the year.
While all of the options mentioned as possibilities to resolve Serie A in case of a suspended season seem bad, there is one that is significantly less bad. If we were to make some alterations.
Having a playoff is not ideal, but I like the general idea, all you have to do is limit it to the two top teams in the table.
A Juve-Lazio two-legged final to decide the Serie A champion is the most fun and most fair option out there. Juve has been the most consistent team atop the table all year, but Lazio has smacked them twice already and they had one game to go that could have potentially decided the championship. These are the two best teams in the league, and having them battle it out head-to-head is the best way to decide the champion.
Yeah, yeah, I know — purists will hate having a league be decided by two games, but sticking to tradition right now is not really an option now is it? And I refuse to have no champion called. That would be lamest, most boring, milquetoast option that would surely enrage fans of all teams involved. So, I expect Serie A to go with that option any day now.