Let Belarusian league complete the Premier League for England

Let Belarusian league complete the Premier League for England
Fans of Torpedo Zhodino cheer during the Belarus Championship match against Belshina Bobruisk in the town of Zhodino, Belarus. Longtime Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is proudly keeping soccer and hockey arenas open even though most sports around the world have shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. Picture:AP Photo/Sergei Grits

LAUGH all you want, but I'm with the Belarusian president on this one. Not the returning of the country's unfortunate footballers to playing their league in the middle of a global pandemic, no that's nuts. I'm just intrigued by his idea that you can cope with anything on a diet of vodka and saunas.

I, personally, have been coping with our social isolation, not with vodka and saunas but with the odd hot whiskey and a woolly jumper. An Irish variant, on a Belarusian solution to a global problem, you might say.

President Alexander Lukashenko has decided, "in his wisdom" that nothing in his country should be cancelled and continues to play ice hockey himself in the country's veteran league.

When asked if there was anything that would stop him playing ice hockey, Mr Lukashenko replied: "It is possible, but why? I don't understand. There are no viruses here. Did you see any of them flying around? I don't see them too. This is a fridge."

I'm not sure if the president of the eastern European republic has electron-microscopes for eyes but he somehow believes he can see a virus that is 200 millionths of a millimetre, 50,000 of which are capable of occupying the head of a pin.

Anyway, Mr Lukashenko is all for pushing on with his football league, unlike Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane, who thinks that if the Premier League does not return to action by June that it's time to call it quits on the current season.

"There needs to be a point where enough is enough. Probably the limit for me is the end of June." said the lanky frontman.

Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane fears any delay in the Premier League beyond June could even impact the 2022 World Cup. 	Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane fears any delay in the Premier League beyond June could even impact the 2022 World Cup. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Most Premier League clubs have nine games remaining in the 2019-20 campaign. Liverpool are 25 points clear of second-placed Manchester City at the top of the table, while Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Norwich City occupy the relegation places.

Ending the season would effectively scupper Liverpool's long-awaited dream of claiming a Premier League title despite them only needing two wins from their remaining matches. Few have any doubt that this is eminently achievable by a side of Liverpool's quality. But, while there is a chance that they win none of their nine remaining games and Man City win all of theirs, then it can't just be given to them.

The prospect of a culled season would delight the less fair-minded fans of other Premier League clubs - who, should it happen, will delight for decades to come on the tears of every Liverpool fan they meet. Reminding them about 'that year they nearly won the title' only for it to be delightfully whipped away from them just as the red ribbons were being tied on the trophy.

The schadenfreude such fans are having over the pain of their counterparts in Liverpool is understandable. But it is nevertheless, unseemly, as it is derived on the back of a human tragedy which is cruel at an epic level.

So, it was important then that Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp came out last week to remind fans and the world that the important thing now is to adhere to health regulations and that football can only come back if and when the pandemic is beaten.

And that is the ultimate truth. If for whatever reason, it becomes necessary to cancel the 2019/202 season in its entirety to ensure that human life is preserved and protected, then there should not be an iota of doubt that it be terminated.

However, the calls to discontinue the league does smack of opportunism by people, who to say the least, were not fans of the 2019/2020 season anyway.

Kane's injury-hit 2019/20 season was already a write-off for the North London based shooter, while Spurs' year would look a lot better coming off a Champions League final high rather than the type of record they've experienced under Jose Mourinho. Of course, Kane's preference to kill this season off is not in isolation. It also has the hefty endorsement of Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin, who said on Saturday "the season will probably be lost", if it cannot start before the end of June.

Then there were the remarks of West Ham vice-chairperson Karren Brady who expressed an opinion, early in the week in favour of culling the season, only to quickly change her tune to playing the league behind closed doors, once she got hit hard by pundits and the media for the obvious conflict of interest such a decision would have in favour of her relegation-threatened West Ham.

West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady changed her mind about killing off this season's Premier League title to completing it when it is safe to do so behind closed doors.	 Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire.
West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady changed her mind about killing off this season's Premier League title to completing it when it is safe to do so behind closed doors. Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire.

Killing the season off may seem a clean way to resolve the problem. Wipe the year from our memories and start afresh next season. But nothing about professional sport is easy.

What do you do about the sides in the Championship, just about to make the breakthrough in promotion? Will Leeds be happy to get some payoff to stay in the second tier another year when they've come so close, so often, on a return to the promised land they think is their rightful place.

Then there are the financial questions. Do clubs have to pay full contracts to players that never completed what might yet be deemed a season that never was? Do clubs have to pay back the season tickets costs to fans of an uncompleted season? And, do Sky and B get their lucrative TV money back from the Premier League for the games they lost out on, not to mind the revenues lost from not having the drama of a title run-in or relegation battle?

Also, there is just a plain question of fairness. If the 2019/2020 title race was an actual cliffhanger with a couple of points between City and Liverpool then maybe you could argue calling it quits makes sense, no one lost no one won. But this Liverpool side was so stupendously better than anyone this season and so far ahead in the table how could you in all fairness deny their achievement?

And generously Man City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan agrees. When asked if Liverpool should be given the title? "For me, that would be OK, yes. You have to be fair as a sportsperson," the 29-year-old Germany international said.

Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan supports the idea of giving Liverpool the title, if the current season is curtailed. 	Picture: Walter Bieri/Keystone via AP
Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan supports the idea of giving Liverpool the title, if the current season is curtailed. Picture: Walter Bieri/Keystone via AP

The resolution gaining the most traction is to play the games behind closed doors when it is deemed safe to do so. This has it's own problems as it may throw out the scheduling of next season's league and internationals, but wouldn't it make more sense to resolve this year's problems before opening an entirely new can of worms for 2021/22?

But there is one other way of sorting it out. And that's to designate each of the English Premier League sides with a side currently playing in the Belarusian Premier League. So Liverpool could become table-toppers Minsk and Man City become Energetik-BGU and Leicester City can become Isloch and so on down the Belarusian league.

They are playing their games anyway, so there is nothing to be lost, their next nine games would stand as the results of the next nine Premier League results of their corresponding teams back in England.

I'm sure unbeaten Minsk will bag two more wins out of their next nine games for Liverpool. While the relegation sides have as good a chance of survival out there as they have in Blithy, maybe even better.

It would make the Belarusian league a hell of a lot more interesting that's for sure.

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