As Uganda Premier League officials pored over documents when the coronavirus crisis had just began to spread, a simple but stark reality became apparent: there was absolutely no provision for a situation like this. It was never considered that football could just stop.
As the coronavirus situation is without precedent in world sport, football authorities are faced with the question of what happens to competitions that are already underway?
We have collated some of the talk from around Uganda about how the authorities might try and straighten out the mess that the pandemic has already created.
The intense discussion about what can be done next, with all manner of solutions encouraged, there are just a few more drastic suggestions that have picked up momentum in the last few days.
Void the season
This would seem to be administratively the simplest option but certainly the most controversial. Domestic competitions would resume next season from the point they started at last August, though inevitably this would cause backlash and heartbreak in equal measure for the likes of runaway leaders, Vipers SC.
But does that actually mean voiding the season is even possible? What are the technicalities and merits to the idea? What would it actually entail, and what would it mean?
Well, it would mean exactly what the word does: voided. The 2019-20 season would be expunged.
‘It won’t have happened. Kenya, Angola, Mauritius, Ethiopia among other African countries have all canceled their leagues’
That would mean the “2020-21” season – which is virtually certain to be greatly truncated no matter what – would really just be the 2019-20 season restarted, making the entire enterprise somewhat farcical when eight months of it have already been played. All of the results and records of that period would meanwhile be wiped, and it’s a wonder whether Steven Mukwala would feel the same if he was told all that his goals wouldn’t count.
Take the Current Standings as final
Award league title based on how they stand at the point of suspension. This would seem less controversial since Vipers are only a handful of points away from mathematically sealing the title anyway.
This can as well be backed up by the FUFA Competitions rules where Article 18(1) states that, where the league format due to circumstances of force majeure fails to be completed within the season, the league winner shall be determined as follows:
- a) Before every Club has completed its first round fixture the league shall be declared null and void.
- b) Where all the Clubs in the league have completed the first round fixture but less than 75% league games have been played, the table standings at the end of the first round shall be considered as the final table standings of the league.
- c) Where at least one club has played more than 75% of the league games, the following formula shall be used by TOC to determine the table positions for the respective group:
- d) A total number of points earned from the number of games played multiplied by the total number of games supposed to be played divided by the number of games played.
This automatically gives table Leaders Vipers SC the title and Maroons FC, Proline FC and Tooro United FC get relegated automatically.
Play-offs to decide the title and relegation
Exactly, what format playoffs would take is anybody’s guess at this stage. Between the league’s top two teams? That would hardly make sporting sense in the case of the UPL. Likewise, how high up the league standings would inclusion in a relegation play-off apply? Who gets to stay and who goes down would be a huge mess.
With over nine teams having a possibility of getting relegated that would probably not be an option for the UPL.
Resume the season at the point of suspension as soon as it is considered safe
From a purely sporting perspective, this seems to be the only option that makes full sense, though the question then shifts to, how long do we have to wait until the next season?
With all the government’s restrictions put in place, football, and sports in general looks to be at the far end of the tunnel with no chances of resuming anytime soon.
With 5 rounds of league games plus the quarter-finals onward of the Uganda Cup competitions still to be played, there’s no telling how deep into the 2020-21 season any re-arrangements that seek to conclude the league would bite.