LONDON (Reuters) - West Ham United vice-chairman Karen Brady says hopes of re-starting the Premier League in three weeks are “dreamland” and believes this season could be declared null and void.
England’s top-flight soccer league, like the rest of world sport, finds itself in unprecedented peace-time territory as it attempts to react to the coronavirus pandemic which has infected nearly 800 people so far in Britain.
The Premier League moved to shut down until at least April 4 on Friday, joining top leagues in Spain, Italy, Germany and France where fixtures have also been suspended.
With no certainty as to when things will return to normal, it has left the 20 clubs in limbo, with Liverpool tantalisingly close to a first title in 30 years and several clubs - including West Ham - in the thick of a relegation battle.
“The Premier League hopes that an interlude of three weeks from today will enable it to restart but that may well be dreamland,” Brady said in her column in The Sun.
“There is no dodging the possibility that all levels in the English Football League (EFL) as well as the Premier League will have to be cancelled and this season declared null and void because if the players can’t play the games can’t go ahead.”
Brady says cancelling the Euro 2020 championships could allow more time for the Premier League season to be completed.
West Ham, like most teams in the Premier League, have nine games remaining, which even if the suspension is limited to three weeks presents a huge challenge with the season originally scheduled to finish on May 17. There are also FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League matches to factor in.
Premier League chiefs and the clubs will meet to discuss the options next week. They are not numerous, though.
Stopping the season and declaring the current standings as final would be hugely controversial. While few would begrudge Liverpool a first title in 30 years - they are 25 points ahead of their nearest rivals - the relegation places are too close to call.
Six points separate bottom club Norwich City from West Ham who are in 16th spot, two places above the drop zone.
Likewise, nothing is yet decided in the second-tier Championship’s promotion race.
“So what if the league cannot be finished?” Brady says. “As games in both the Premier League and Football League are affected, the only fair and reasonable thing to do is declare the whole season null and void.
“Who knows who would have gone down or come up if the games have not actually been played in full?
“A huge blow to Liverpool who might be robbed of their first title in 30 years.”
Brighton and Hove Albion’s chief executive Paul Barber said the decision to suspend the league was the only option.
“Our priority is to play out the remainder of the season but we have to be realistic in that we do not know where this virus is heading,” he told BB Sport.
(Corrects misspelling in penultimate paragraph)
Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Tony Lawrence