As assorted pundits and keyboard warriors debate what should happen if the 2019-20 football seasons cannot be completed, it is worth looking at precedents for this kind of situation.
As the Liverpool-haters and crass opportunists – yes, that’s you Karren Brady – vie for column inches to call for the absurd voiding of a season that is on its final straight, it is worth looking at what has happened when we have seen similar situations in the past.
While it was very much a localized issue rather than a global health crisis, the passing of King Rama IX of Thailand had a seismic impact. The Thai football season was called to a halt with three top-tier matches remaining, and both the title and relegation issues unresolved.
Muang Thong United were crowned champions, while leading Bangkok United by five points. The bottom three were controversially relegated despite two of them still being in with a chance of survival.
Given the particular context, it was impossible for a great deal of dissatisfaction to be expressed with the decision. However, it was extremely frustrating for three clubs.
- Bangkok United
It was early days in Bangkok United’s emergence as a force in Thai football. They had been flirting with relegation when Mano Polking took over in 2014, but in 2016 they were pushing Muang Thong United all the way in a thrilling battle for the league title.
The Bangkok Angels may only have sat at the top of the table for a brief period that year, but they had taken four points from six matches from Muang Thong and stayed in contention when Buriram United were in a relative meltdown.
Both Bangkok United and Muang Thong United had a relatively undemanding final three fixtures, and given form at the time Muang Thong would likely have ended the season as champions with or without the early end.
They had nothing like the lead that Liverpool currently have in the English Premier League, but they were awarded their first title since 2012 and given access to the group stage of the 2017 AFC Champions League.
It had been a tough season for the Hornbills, sitting in the bottom three for all but eight of the 33 Matchdays when their survival bid was called to a halt.
On the back of mid-season signing Florent Sinama-Pongolle’s goals, Chainat looked to be in line to overhaul Super Power Samut Prakan and / or Navy FC, who both sat just one place and one point above them.
Chainat did not have the easiest run-in, with matches at Bangkok Glass and Ratchaburi to come, but they were in decent form and within sight of survival.
Norwich City might have a hard argument convincing anyone they will survive but Aston Villa and Bournemouth would be the Chainats of such a decision in the EPL – down but very far from out.
3. Army United
Army United had only just dropped into the bottom three when the season ended and could be considered as the club with the biggest cause for dissatisfaction.
However, the now defunct club had been in freefall since mid-season, having been in ninth place on Matchday 16. Nevertheless, the unfulfilled fixtures at home to Nakhon Ratchasima and at the top two clubs Bangkok United and Muang Thong United offered unlikely opportunities for survival.
Army United sat alongside Chainat on 30 points – just one point behind two other clubs and within nine points of four other clubs who might have been dragged into a relegation battle.
Ending a season early can never be completely fair, especially when there are issues unresolved. However, the completely absurd suggestions that seasons should be voided are guided by self-interest, spite or tribalism.
Were Muang Thong United worthy champions in 2016? Most would agree they were, but they did not win it over the planned 36 matches. At the other end of the table, it was much messier.