The coronavirus outbreak has been rapidly worsening globally, but will it affect Jurgen Klopp’s side hopes of winning the league?
The effect of the deadly coronavirus has been devastating, with at least 130,000 people infected and over 5,000 deaths by March 13.
It has already spread throughout China and is now rampant in the UK, USA, Australia and much of Europe.
With major sporting events and competitions already being cancelled and postponed in efforts to prevent further spread of the virus, questions have been raised about the possibility of the cancellation of this season’s Premier League and how it could potentially affect title hopefuls Liverpool.
Would Liverpool miss out on the Premier League if the coronavirus situation worsens?
Recent reports in the Telegraph have revealed that there would be “no guarantee” that Liverpool would be crowned Premier League champions if the current season was cut short due to the ongoing coronavirus epidemic taking over the world.
It would be a disappointing blow for the Anfield side who are on course to lift their first ever Premier League trophy – and first league title on 30 years.
According to the Liverpool Echo , Premier League chiefs are set to hold discussions on what would be done if they were forced to end the season early.
The Premier League did announce that they would be suspending the pre-match handshake regime until further notice in order to combat further spread.
“For health reasons there will be no shaking of hands between players ahead of Premier League matches,” said the governing body.
The Telegraph later revealed, however, that Liverpool are still set to be crowned Premier League champions even if the rest of the season is abandoned due to the Covid-19 outbreak – and that there was “little opposition to awarding Jurgen Klopp’s men their first English title for 30 years”.
On Friday March 13, following the positive coronavirus tests for Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi, matches were postponed until April 3 at the earliest.
The coronavirus situation has exacerbated spectacularly in the last few months after emerging out of a seafood market in Wuhan, China. The virus – which can be lethal – is rapidly spreading across the UK, with known cases expected to tip over 1,000 imminently.
The virus is transmitted through person-to-person contact, with the advice that large crowds are to be avoided to minimise further spread of the disease.
Of course, large sporting events are an obvious draw of large crowds, and football in Europe is expected to be suspended indefinitely in order to contain coronavirus. La Liga and Serie A are already victims of postponements amid severe outbreaks in Spain and, especially, Italy, where over 15,000 people are afflicted.
The Champions League and Europa League have also had games postponed.
Will the remainder of the Premier League be cancelled?
There are no set regulations in the Premier League rule book of what would happen should the competition be cancelled early.
But there is further worry after FA chief Greg Clarke told the Premier League that he does not think that the domestic season will see completion .
Of course, should the Premier League be cancelled, it would have a ripple effect across all of Europe. It is not now clear how relegation and promotion to and from the Premier League would work should the remainder of the season be suspended, and there are also issues raised about qualification for the Champions League, Europa League and other domestic and international competitions.
Any decision to end the season prematurely and not award any titles or promotion or relegation spots would be met with widespread controversy.
The Daily Mail states that “crisis talks” are to be held revolving the outcome of the season if the rest of the matches are to be cancelled.
Other tournaments, however, have faced early cancellation due to extraneous factors, such as the 2019 Rugby World Cup which was impacted by severe weather problems caused by Typhoon Hagibis in Japan.
Typhoon Hagibis caused New Zealand vs Italy and England vs France fixtures to be cancelled, with their results recorded as 0-0 draws according to tournament rules.
Teams whose matches were cancelled had their points shared, and no score registered.
There’s no guarantee that the FA could follow suit in awarding each team a point for cancelled fixtures, but it is another option.
How has Klopp responded?
After initially refusing to be drawn into discourse about the consequences of the coronavirus threat, saying he does not know why his opinion on the situation is being sought, Klopp penned a heartfelt letter to Liverpool fans reminding them that at the end of the day, there are more important things than football – such as the lives of others.
“I don’t think this is a moment where the thoughts of a football manager should be important, but I understand for our supporters they will want to hear from the team and I will front that,” said the German coach.
“First and foremost, all of us have to do whatever we can to protect one another. In society I mean. This should be the case all the time in life, but in this moment I think it matters more than ever.
“I’ve said before that football always seems the most important of the least important things. Today, football and football matches really aren’t important at all.
“If it’s a choice between football and the good of the wider society, it’s no contest. Really, it isn’t.