The Covid-19 outbreak has wreaked havoc for sports fans around the world. From the suspension of the major soccer leagues to the postponement of the Aintree Grand National, its an unprecedented time for sport fanatics. The suspension of the league in Ireland and around Europe has thrown up many questions about the resumption and the conclusion of this year’s campaign.
The first set of League of Ireland fixtures to fall victim to the government guidelines was the sixth round of fixtures due to take place on the 13th of March. The English Premier League played their last game on Monday 9th of March when Leicester overcame Aston Villa 4-0. Since the cessation of games, there have been huge debates among fans as to what should happen. Of course, the big issue with the English Premier League is how close Liverpool are to clinching to league title. Much of the arguments circulating regarding the Premier League have been from fans of rival clubs wishing for the league to be suspended, just to deprive Liverpool of the title that they are long overdue. As far as I’m concerned, it isn’t a legitimate case, the league progress to date can’t be just disregarded. Liverpool have been consistent all season, and have all but sealed the title. Whether you’re a Liverpool fan or not, you can’t deny their success. Suggestions that the league be classed as null and void seems unreasonable. The Premier League teams have agreed that the league will not resume until 30th April at the earliest, with the possibility of being pushed into May or June. Some other leagues such as the Spanish and French leagues have been suspended indefinitely. It is hard to predict when play will resume, but if the spread of the virus slows down and normality returns, we could see play resume in mid to late summer.
Over the past week or so, premier league players have announced that they will take a wage cut and donate a percentage to the NHS. In the big money leagues, the financial side of this lockdown period isn’t too worrying. As with many aspects of the League of Ireland, finances play a part. The beginning of this break in fixtures spelled danger for many clubs, who without gate receipts, would struggle to pay wages of players and staff. Calling off the season is not an option in Ireland, as it would almost certainly see several clubs go under. Finance is a constant struggle for many clubs in the league, and this quiet period is a worrying time. Since the virus first started to take root in Ireland, it has grown rapidly, but not to the heights that were first expected. This must be taken as a positive in regard to the resumption of sport. It has already been confirmed by the league officials that the final round of fixtures will not be played. The League of Ireland is a trickier issue as there is so much left to play for. With only 5 games played, and the season set to go on until November, there is a lot at stake. In comparison to the likes of the English Leagues, Scottish League and other European Leagues that all conclude at the beginning of Summer. The first major league to be concluded is the Belgian League, where Club Brugge have been crowned Champions, having a 15-point lead with only one game to go before play-offs.
To conclude, I feel that the leagues must be played to a finish, whether that is during the Summer months, or later in the year. There is too much to play for in the League of Ireland to write it off, and too much to be lost for clubs like Liverpool and Celtic who are within touching distance of claiming their respective titles.