Inside Premier League coronavirus meeting on Liverpool title and void season

It is the priority of the Premier League and its 20 clubs to play out the remainder of this season, according to Brighton's representative at Friday's unprecedented crisis meeting.

Seagulls chief executive Paul Barber took part in the video conference call conducted by the league in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Having initially decided to go ahead with matches following the advice of the government, Barber says that the Premier League's decision to postpone fixtures until at least April 4 was met with unanimous approval by the division's 20 teams.

Speaking to BBC Football Focus about the extraordinary topics discussed at the meeting, Barber divulged the feelings of the clubs on matters such as Liverpool's potential title win, promotion and relegation, a 22-team league next season and just when games will be able to go ahead.

Here's what he said:

Could the Premier League season be voided?

“We don’t want to go down this option because every league starts with an expectation of completing all the fixtures and we really want to be able to do that.

"Our intention must be to try and complete matches but we’ve got to put people’s health first.

“At the moment, it’s really hard to imagine putting on a football game in the Premier League in two or three weeks time, it’s hard to imagine that given the scenario that we are in.

"If we were to freeze the league, then for me it would be incredibly unjust for Liverpool not to be awarded the title because I think everybody in the game appreciates what a fantastic season they’ve had and what a wonderful team they are.

“But equally, it would be incredibly unjust for teams to be relegated when there is still games to play and the financial consequences of that are difficult, and it’s equally unjust for Leeds and West Brom to not be promoted because we know how hard it is to get out of the Championship, we know how hard it is for teams to even get to this stage of the season in the top two.”

What are you currently thinking about in terms of solutions to the problem?

“There’s probably about 200-300 things on this list that we’re working through to try and prepare ourselves for every eventuality. Our priority and the Premier League’s priority is to play out the remainder of the season, that’s what we all want, that’s what the fans want and it’s what the clubs want.

“But we also have to be realistic, we really don’t know where this virus is heading, where we will be on 4th April, when we intend to start playing games, and whether we can complete the fixture list.

“We’ve got to look at every eventuality, we’ve got to think about people, about the players and our coaches, but we’ve also got to think about the fans coming to the stadium and how they get to the stadium, usually through public transport, and therefore all the implications of that as well.

“There’s a huge amount to think about and we’ve got the catering contracts, the sponsorship contracts, the tickets we’ve sold, the hospitality.

"There’s such a large range of things that go into the running of a football club week to week, match to match, and we’re all in the same boat, facing an unprecedented situation.

“As much as it’s difficult in the Premier League, I also feel for some of our colleagues in the lower leagues who rely so much on matchday income.”

Could the Premier League help the lower league clubs?

“The way that the football pyramid works already, we produce our income that flows into the lower league.

"Obviously, we’re in an unprecedented situation where we haven’t got down to the level of detail, that’s a decision we’d have to take to get to.

“At the moment, we’re really focused on how we can contain the virus, how we can keep our people fit and well, then we can have a look again in a couple of weeks at where we are.

“In the meantime, we’ve got several teams who have got players in self isolation, which makes it difficult for them to think about 4th April because they’ve not just got to self isolate for 14 days, they’ve then got to get themselves to match fitness again, which could take another 7-14 days.

“We’ve got a number of complexities here which go way beyond thinking of the finances. It’s important, but we’ve got to think about the here and now.”

Was it a unanimous decision to suspend matches?

“Yes it was. I think it was absolutely the right thing to do and at this time, we’ve got to prioritise people’s health.

"As much as we all love football and as much as we wanted 30,000 people at the AMEX today to play Arsenal , it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do and it isn’t the right thing to do at this time.”

Could the Premier League be expanded to 22 teams next season, with Leeds and West Brom promoted?

“I think that is a possible option.

"To leave the 20 teams in the Premier League as it is would obviously help us and would help others, but to bring the top two teams from the Championship up, give us a larger league for next season, perhaps four relegation spots next season, and then two up again to get the league back to 20 for the following season… it has some merit.

“Clearly there’s a number of details in there that would have to be worked through and a number of issues that would have to be worked through, not least the qualification for European competition places.

"But we are in an unprecedented time and we may need an unprecedented solution for this particular problem.”

But what about the teams pushing for the playoffs?

“If I was in that position I would really feel for them but I think we’re all in a situation where with games to go, we could all end up in a better place than where we are, and if we can’t complete the season, then we’ve got to look at a quite radical solution to try and get over a short-term hump as it is.

“We could find ourselves delaying the season but then we’d impact another season leading into that if we were to delay for too long, so there’s a whole range of issues here.

“Player contracts come into it because most of those will expire in one form or another on the 30th June, or at least that would be the natural break in many contracts, so if we extended the season into July, August or even further, what would be the implications of that?

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