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BFW Roundtable: Should teams in the lead be awarded the trophy?

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As the European federations weight important decisions on account of the coronavirus pandemic, it seems timely to ask: If leagues decide to cancel the rest of their season, should the teams in first place get the trophy?

FC Bayern Muenchen Celebrate Winning The Bundesliga Photo by Alexandra Beier/Bongarts/Getty Images

The Belgian First Division A recently decided to end their season and award the title to current first place team, Club Brugge, risking the wrath of UEFA:

That, of course, raises an important question. Should other domestic leagues follow suit? The elephant in the room is of course Liverpool, given their utterly dominant lead in the Premiere League. But then you have situations like Bayern Munich’s in the Bundesliga, where top four teams are separated only by 6 points or La Liga where Barcelona and Real Madrid are 2 points away. Would it be entirely valid to award those teams the trophy when the title race is so close? That’s what we’re here to attempt to figure out.

Josh

I personally do not believe that domestic leagues should be awarding titles if the team has not been mathematically chosen as champions. How often do we love seeing those late season surges of teams to roar back and claim a championship? Now I do get we are in a time unlike any others. That being said, any championship earned this season will undoubtably be met with as asterisk due to the fact that the season just stopped cold turkey. It’s not like a shorted season where the start was delayed. Now mind you, if any team was to have a strong claim to getting the trophy this year it would be Liverpool. They have a commanding lead in the Premiere League but the catch being that they were not yet mathematically the champions. I personally feels like it sort of invalidates the trophy itself. I just have to err on the side of negating the season as it avoids those asterisk championships when the league was unable to finish. If anything, it preserves the meaning of the trophy in my eyes.

Fergus

In my opinion, Leagues should either, one, across every position be declared null and void. Two, across every position end using the current standings. Three, stop at nothing to finish. Under no circumstances should, for example, leagues awards winners, then declare it null and void for the other places, there simply must be no combinations of one and two. Both options have a host of problems, for voided leagues, teams like Liverpool or teams that have had great seasons will feel hard done by. For using current standings, games in hand and different schedules make this completely unfair, there also is the question of promotion relegation.Therefore, I think it’s imperative that the leagues finish. Whether this is by July, or September, it must be done, all alternatives are unfair and would cause huge monetary problems. While issues from this do come, this is the best option for retaining the integrity of the game and helping clubs pay bills.

RLD

While I am hopeful that many domestic seasons can still be completed in Europe this year, if not, I think Belgium has it right; the title should be awarded to the team in first place on the date of cessation of play. The usual rule is simple, the club with the most points at the end of the season becomes champion. I’m actually surprised that there is not already a clear contingency plan in place for this eventuality in the rules. In auto racing, after a certain number of laps the race becomes official, even if the remaining laps cannot be completed due to safety issues. While such events are unlucky for teams that might have played a slightly harder schedule, or had some sort of strategy to finish strong, luck is also a part of sport and we live with its consequences every year. Emotionally, this will create a range of reactions. For a team like Liverpool it seems like the just thing to do. For Juve, it is not such a clear case. But objectively the team with the most points when the season ends should become the winner, even if the precise end date is a tragic surprise for all. As an aside, 538 had us as 88% likely to win the title before the cessation, so I don’t see awarding the title to Bayern as particularly unjust or speculative.

Schnitzel

It is a sticky question when the teams in the lead have not mathematically clinched the title. Neither Liverpool nor Bayern have clinched, but Liverpool have a 25 point lead versus 4 for Bayern. Both situations are obviously not similar, but a solution (if all the leagues were to end) has to be consistent with the top 5 leagues at the very least.

One solution would be a metric system to compute the final places of the teams in contention. The system should first look at the points difference, goal difference and xG, and probability analysis of how the team would perform in their remaining fixtures, calculating the difficulty depending on their performances earlier in the season. This last part is iffy, since real-time football games can never be accurately reduced to probability, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Then an overall grade can be given to teams based on the above factors and possibly more. This would solve the problem of champion and the top 4. I personally feel every team’s performance this season should be the deciding factor with respect to league positions. This would see Liverpool win the Prem quite easily, and Bayern win the Bundesliga (though not as clear-cut, it is the most plausible outcome).