There is no football anywhere in England today or tomorrow after the FA and Premier League decided to cancel all scheduled matches in response to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 96. However, there’s still a chance that football could be played next weekend.
According to The Athletic (£), there are ongoing discussions about resuming the Premier League for matchweek 8, after Buckingham Palace announced that the Queen’s funeral would be held on Monday, September 19. That’s great news for most matches. However, it might not work very well for London-based clubs who are scheduled to play home matches, as there’s some question that the Metropolitan Police would be able (or willing) to staff three matches 1-2 days before the funeral of the century. That includes not only Tottenham Hotspur, who are slated to host Leicester City in the Saturday late match, but also Brentford and Chelsea, London clubs who also have home matches.
One possible solution being mooted is to switch the fixtures, i.e. move Spurs’ match to at the King Power Stadium in Leicester. That would in theory work for Spurs and Chelsea, who host Liverpool, but Brentford face Arsenal in a London derby. There are challenges for that plan as well, as the fixture flip would require that the now-home teams would have to scramble to find enough staff in place to host matches, not to mention a potential ticketing nightmare as fans who already own tickets would then be in limbo.
Thanks to the unprecedented winter World Cup, the fixture calendar is full until January and even further. It’s not clear when the already cancelled matches will be able to be made up, and postponing more matches will be even more difficult. The Athletic didn’t mention a timeline as to when any decision about matchweek 8 would be made, but the FA and Premier League will need to make a decision as soon as possible. The Metropolitan Police, for what it’s worth, threw it back to the football associations, suggesting that they’ll make appropriate plans for whatever is decided.
The whole scenario is stupid — not because there isn’t justification for canceling matches during a period of national morning, there clearly is — but because it’s crystal clear that the federations had no plans or contingency models for what to do in exactly this situation. I am not interested in (another) argument on this blog about whether or not we should be postponing sportsball games for the death of an English monarch, but I still can’t believe that the Premier League has known that this day would come for more than 20 years and they decided to just not worry about thinking through this scenario ahead of time.
Should the Leicester match be postponed instead of played, Tottenham’s next match would not come until the North London Derby at the Emirates Stadium on October 1.