MARTIN SAMUEL: Why the relegation guessing game is so pointless… to predict what happens for the rest of the season when the consequences are so great is beyond brutal
- Premier League clubs will vote on how to decide the season if it can’t be finished
- But the favourite appears to be a resolution called Weighted Points Per Game
- However the team currently in 16th place, West Ham, would end up relegated
- To guess what happens for the rest of the campaign would be beyond brutal
Next week or maybe even sooner, Premier League clubs may make real that old sporting cliché: the six-pointer. They will introduce four-pointers, five-pointers and many other matches measured by decimal places up from and below three. They will introduce a system so grossly unfair it beggars belief. Yet plenty does in football these days.
On May 28, Premier League clubs will vote on a means to decide the season if the games cannot be completed. Favourite is a resolution called Weighted Points Per Game. The league will take each club’s home and away record separately, and work out both average points totals. It will then multiply those numbers by the respective games left, home and away. This will give them a projected end of season total and league positions will be decided by that.
As it stands, there is one headline: the team currently in 16th place, two positions clear of relegation, go down. Yet let’s start at the top, and work from there. Liverpool have a 100 per cent record at Anfield. They have won every game. Their WPPG at home, then, is unquestionably three. And as there are only three points available in any game, that would appear to be the end of it. But, no. The away team will also have a WPPG calculation for their games on the road. And Liverpool’s next home game is against Aston Villa.
Premier League clubs will vote this month on how to decide the season if it can’t be completed
So while Brighton, Bournemouth, Watford, West Ham and Norwich went to Anfield, lost — in some cases by the margin of a single goal — and came away with nothing, Villa will lose, because Liverpool get the maximum three points, but still come out with 0.53 points. It’s a 3.53-point game.
What a terrible shame for all those other clubs who visited Anfield with just three points on the table. West Ham, who only succumbed to an 81st-minute winner; Brighton and Bournemouth, who suffered narrow 2-1 defeats.
A 3.53-point game could really make a difference to their final standing in this imaginary league with very real consequences; particularly as, when Brighton travel to Norwich, they will only be splitting 1.8 points, less than the minimum gleaned from a real game.
Aston Villa would lose the game at Anfield according to WPPG, but also still gain 0.53 points
Brighton and Bournemouth have five home matches remaining with the potential for 15 points if they win them all. Yet, given the opposition, the most that can be awarded in home matches involving Brighton is 14.04 points; for Bournemouth’s home programme 12.25. That isn’t right. How can both Manchester City and Liverpool get more than two points each when they meet; yet West Ham play Aston Villa for 1.6 on the final day of the season?
Even if two teams fail to achieve the point of the game by scoring a single goal between them, even if 22 players determinedly kick the ball into the main stand out of spite for 90 minutes, the smallest total the teams can split is two points; just as the highest that can be awarded whether winning by one goal or 30 is three.
WPPG conjures outcomes that are mathematically impossible in the real season. It would be like factoring all of the information around the remaining Six Nations games into a computer and coming out with a succession of 2-2 and 4-4 draws. It can’t happen.
WPPG makes one very big call in its calculations, too. It has West Ham dropping into the bottom three and, as the Premier League appears hell bent on the destruction of three shareholders this season come what may, suffering relegation.
Adopting WPPG would see West Ham dropping into the bottom three and suffering relegation
That’s an interesting one. Demoting a club who are not in the relegation places now, and would not be even if Aston Villa were awarded three points for their game in hand, is a bold move. Certainly for lawyers because given what is at stake it might be an idea to test that one in court, whoever it affects.
For while if there is no restart West Ham are currently the ones to suffer, WPPG — or its less sophisticated sibling PPG, which does away with home and away weighting and just calculates an average points per game throughout the season — is also being proposed as a way to end the season if it is curtailed at any time.
Meaning, five games in it could be another club who are plucked from 16th position and dropped carelessly into the Championship. Bournemouth may think WPPG saves them, but what if they are saving themselves only to suddenly come out on the wrong side of the formula when the pause button is hit again?
This is what is so unfair about the 2019-20 campaign. Not relegation. Play the campaign out and the devil takes the hindmost, as always. Yet to have a guess about what happens across the remaining matches when the consequences are so great? That is beyond brutal and anyone who comes up with such a plan deserves to see it tested, at enormous expense, in court.
To guess what happens across the remaining top flight matches would be beyond brutal
Take League One, whose chairmen will vote on a way to decide the season today. The owners want the gravy of the play-offs — because the league can flog them to television, forget all the talk of fairness — but this means agreeing to relegation.
Bolton and Southend are adrift and unlikely to survive, but Tranmere are within three points of AFC Wimbledon, with a game in hand. Win that and only goal difference places them in the bottom three with 11 games to play. Even in a conventional season it would seem a harsh judgment to presume relegation from there but now consider a report at the weekend that clubs in League Two are considering a merger with the National League and a regionalised fourth-fifth tier.
Tranmere could suddenly end up in a competition with Fylde, Chorley or King’s Lynn Town, depending on promotion and relegation issues. So, too, would Bolton, who were playing Sporting Lisbon in the last 16 of the UEFA Cup as recently as 2008.
Less cost, more derbies is the logic behind a lower tier mash-up — but was Chorley v Bolton at 3,700 capacity Victory Park, or King’s Lynn v Tranmere, an eight hour, 400-mile round trip for the visitors really what the protagonists had in mind?
Bolton faced Sporting Lisbon in 2008 but may end up in a competition with Fylde or Chorley
The Conference leagues have a strange geographical make-up, too, with southern clubs significantly over-represented, which is how Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire came to be playing in the northern division in 2011-12, where their opponents included Workington, Blyth Spartans and Gainsborough Trinity.
The fate of Bolton, Tranmere or even West Ham may seem inconsequential to those clubs aiming for greater glory or even to those who are safe, for now. Yet, aside from the exalted few, anyone can have a bad season, or even a rotten few months, and who knows where a club might be the next time Covid presses stop? Could be a few weeks, could be a few months, could be a year or so from now. And by then precedent might be established.
Who among the Premier League’s current middle rump would have voted for an average points per game relegation after 29 matches before a ball was kicked? Southampton? Crystal Palace? Burnley? Who would be happy to take the fall that way next season, if a midwinter spike occurs — and stake their future on a real 1.6-pointe
AH YES, WE ALL MISSED GOOD OLD VAR
If you didn’t catch RB Leipzig versus Freiburg on Saturday, you missed a decent match. Not a classic, nothing special, just a proper football match. That was the charm. It had the energy of a good game, even without a crowd. The sport, minus the show, endured.
Borussia Dortmund versus Schalke began ponderously, giving rise to fears a game without fans would become a glorified training session. Not to worry. This was a derby between a team chasing a title and their local rivals. In the same fixture in 2017, Dortmund led 4-0 at half-time and drew 4-4. So it was cagey, at first. And then Dortmund ran away with it, because they are much better than Schalke this season.
Freiburg’s second goal against RB Leipzig was ruled out by VAR after a player strayed offside
Switching over to the Leipzig game after Dortmund’s third, the home side were chasing a 1-0 deficit to maintain their title ambitions and, pleasingly, it resembled any other Saturday. Leipzig had a go in search of an equaliser and, after they succeeded, gave it even more to find a winner.
Then Freiburg scored a second only for a chap in a studio to rule it out because somebody’s shoulder had strayed into space. So, just like old times really. An enjoyable match, with a thrilling denouement, ruined by technology. As you were. It’s amazing this game got crowds in the first place, given what they’ve done to it.
IT’S ALL IN THE CELEBRATION…
The importance of the Bundesliga’s return seemed to elude one person — the director of the Dortmund-Schalke broadcast. When the outstanding Erling Braut Haaland scored Dortmund’s opening goal, all eyes were on the celebration — at which point the director clearly forgot he was detailing a global news event and cut to the face of a sad Schalke defender.
So we didn’t fully see if they went for a socially-distanced team dance, a self-conscious succession of elbow bumps, or an 11-man writhing human pyramid followed by a stern letter from Angela Merkel and 14 days’ quarantine. Hopefully, we’ll do better when it’s our turn, although we thought that about our Covid-19 response, too.
The director of the Dortmund-Schalke broadcast cut away from Erling Haaland’s celebration
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS WILL BE ALL TOO FAMILIAR
James Anderson was asked about the prospect of playing cricket behind closed doors. He said, rather obviously, that in front of a big crowd the intensity could drive a player to the top of his game but without an audience, a player had to self-motivate. He said most would know that feeling. ‘It’ll be just like county cricket,’ teased Anderson.
It’s a fair point, though. There is an awful lot of sport, even elite sport, that takes place in front of relatives or two old boys asleep behind a Daily Telegraph. Hockey, much women’s football, the County Championship, Olympic disciplines, even Test cricket outside this country.
Empty grounds will be a talking point for some sports but may be business as usual for others
The day England rewrote the record books to reach 517 for one declared against Australia in Brisbane, huge swathes of the Gabba were empty. Even for an Ashes Test, Australia do not bother selling advance tickets for the final day. No need, very often, mind.
So, while empty grounds may be a talking point in the Premier League and a breaking point for clubs in League One and Two, for many it will be business as usual. That’s why so much sport is in financial crisis.
SOUTHGATE SHOULD RESIST LOOKMAN’S BRINKMANSHIP
Earlier in the year it was reported that Ademola Lookman was considering changing allegiance from England to Nigeria. Tunde Adelakun, a technical assistant with the Nigerian team, said the player had completed the necessary paperwork to put in an application. Equally, there was speculation that this was a means of applying pressure on England manager Gareth Southgate and that Lookman was angling for elevation to the senior squad for friendlies in March.
Ademola Lookman is reportedly considering changing his allegiance to Nigeria from England
Those games never took place. And having seen Lookman in action for RB Leipzig at the weekend, when he posed a greater danger to camera operators than the goal, Southgate would do well to resist brinkmanship. Either a player wants to be English or not. Lookman has only played eight games for his club this season and is yet to score. Nothing about him suggests he is ready to be a senior international, with England or Nigeria. Not yet anyway. But if he wants to switch, that’s his call.
DAGROSA ON THE SEARCH FOR PREMIER LEAGUE GIANT
Joseph DaGrosa, the former owner of Bordeaux and once interested in buying Newcastle, remains on the lookout for a major Premier League club. He wants to build a portfolio akin to the City Football Group, starting with an anchor English interest. ‘Coronavirus will mean possibilities to acquire some really strong clubs that are financially distressed,’ said DaGrosa. ‘And to add some world-class players at a fraction of what they would otherwise cost.’ Smart. Bet no other really rich guy has thought of that.
Joseph DaGrosa, once interested in Newcastle, is still on the lookout for a Premier League club
As the year crawls on with more talk of global recession, a crisis in the airline industry and quarantines on all travellers bar key workers, could there be a more misconceived idea than the 2021 European Championship spread the width of the continent? Even if fans are allowed to move without being placed in isolation on arrival, the chances of the airline routes being available is greatly reduced. Travel costs will have soared, accommodation, too, as hotels scramble frantically to recoup earlier losses. This is not an idea whose time has come, but a flawed lunacy that should have been long laid to rest.
The idea that the 2021 European Championships will be spread across the continent is lunacy
Share this article
Source: Read Full Article