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What should happen with the COVID-impacted world of football?

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Malcolm Dugdale thinks that the EFL should adopt a one-off ‘uber-season’, whereby the current campaign blends straight into the next one. It’d give Sunderland a chance of earning promotion, but would you be happy if this is something they went for?

Coventry City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

As a fan of football anywhere in the world, the impact of Coronavirus has been significant, to say the least. Only a very small minority of leagues have tried to play on. When they have, it has made headline news and gathered all kinds of criticism, for understandable reasons (good luck, Belarussians!). Very few would deny that carrying on with this season right now is not in the best interests of the health of the people involved - be that players, staff, fans or the families who have to welcome others home after the events.

Much debate has been had about what the FA should do re the remainder of this season. For us Mackem’s (for now), that means what happens with League One. Suggestions have included stopping now and awarding league places “as is”; awarding points averages for the un-played games defining the end positions; letting the top 8 teams play off and so on. All those ideas have their own pros and cons, but one proposal that I have not seen as much is my idea - a part season “roll over”.

In the Euro-lottery we all dream of winning, if there is no winner today, they roll over the kitty to next time, and go again. In football terms, my ask is why can we not do this?

Why not take the points difference versus the bottom team that each team has so far and make those the points on day 1 of 2020-2021, carrying on with a full season? Coventry would start on 53 points, and Sunderland on 45 (as Bolton are on 14). The season can have 56 or so games rather than 44-46, adding in the un-played games from the COVID impact. Having thought about this for a while, I cannot see why this has not been a concept more deeply explored by the officials in charge.

Sunderland v Gillingham - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

So, why is this such a good idea?

  1. All teams need credit for the season so far – this is addressed with the roll over method. What you have earned, you keep, and you build on it too.
  2. Clubs need the revenue from the gate receipts to help them survive – with the rollover concept, clubs could play the games from this season in the next one with fans paying to watch. The ticket revenue that they didn’t get this year can help pay off debts from the impact.
  3. It fits more easily than taking a risk too soon after the pandemic, whether there are play offs or if teams play the season out. The ability to fit 10-12 extra games into a full new season is way more doable than trying to fit all the games into (probably) a few weeks before September 2020. If needs be, maybe we skip one of the “Mickey Mouse” cups to make way for the league to be sorted in a fair way, or make the cups have less rounds?

There are always a few challenges - this principle would need to happen up and down the leagues, as League One cannot do this if the same doesn’t happen elsewhere. It would also mean that Bolton carry their penalty points situation over into an uber-season (though they were probably always going down, they may have a better chance with this model to bounce back). We would also still have to sort out how the team numbers are corrected after the sad demise of Bury.

Bury FC - Gigg Lane Photo by Visionhaus

All that said, assuming football resumes even by October, this approach appears to be way fairer and more do-able than many, and it neither awards nor penalises clubs inconsistently. The league title for the end of next season could also carry double prize money if placings are not recognised this season. I doubt the league sponsors will be desperate to part with the money right now either… many parts of the economy are being battered by this phenomenon.

The priority, no matter what happens, must be the least number of football people (yes, Geordies and Smoggies too) succumbing to this horrid virus. We need to get fans back out on the terraces to sing our hearts out for the lads for many years to come, no matter what colour shirt adorns the tribe we idolise.

So, what do you think? Feel free to write in and let the lads at Roker Report know your views on this suggestion, and other options. Hopefully, all possible options are being fully explored, and we can bring a safe and reasonable end to this season with minimal loss of loved ones.

Most importantly, look after yourselves fellow Black Cats fans. Do not allow “Sunderland till you die” to be brought forward. Your family (and your club) need you for many years to come yet. Ha’way the lads.