Opinion

Need to finish A-League season? China could be the answer

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In most northern summers, you can barely move in parts of Asia without bumping into European football teams.

Southeast Asian cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok regularly play host to mega clubs from the west while further to the east Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing are also familiar ports of call.

Given that the coronavirus outbreak has brought football around the world to an unprecedented halt, there are unlikely to be any tours undertaken this June or July, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be any games played in certain parts of Asia as - we all hope - the virus is brought under control.

Talking to a few Chinese journalists in the past few days, there were questions posed as to whether it would be possible for the Premier League to finish its 2019-20 season in China.

Instead of playing the usual slow-paced exhibition games that take place in June and July, clubs could play real games. It would be a drastic solution but these are unusual times. 

It seems unlikely but, the theory goes, there are plenty of advantages to bringing over the teams to create a feast of football.

It would mean that there is more chance of actually finishing the season and broadcasters would love it. 

A temporary switch to China could be a better option for A-League teams.

There are obviously bigger issues going on at the moment but life in much of China is slowly starting to pick up.

Football is also starting to move into gear. Almost all Chinese Super League clubs are now back in training and all 16 should be on the pitch this week.

There were hopes of the league, which was due to kick off on February 22, starting in the second half of April, though that was always optimistic.

At the moment the feeling is that May is definitely possible, though without fans.

All the players and staff currently in the country have gone, or are going, through a 14-day quarantine period after returning from overseas training camps.

In the next few days, the Chinese FA should be able to say with some confidence that all teams involved in the Chinese Super League are virus free. 

The A-League was one of the last anywhere to shut down and, for a while, those games were lapped up around the world.

At the moment however, it is difficult to see the A-League season being completed anytime soon.

A move to China could be an interesting one. The entire league could move to, say, Shanghai, to play out the remaining fixtures.

Logistically it would not be easy, not least because there is currently a restriction on foreigners entering the country.

Indeed, some foreign CSL players did not make it back in time but the measure is temporary and special dispensation can be given.

An Australian Festival of Football would mean that A-League teams go to China, go through quarantine, play three or so games a week, get the regular season finished and then have, if needed, a quickfire final series.

Or it could be that the teams forget the regular season and instead play an extended final series - whatever works. 

It would get the Aussie game back on television and it would even have a tournament feel with more than one game taking place every day.

The time difference between the two countries is not big and the schedule would also suit other Asian markets and that of Europe.

It would give sponsors something to smile about and would do Australian football’s relationship with China no harm at all and a city like Shanghai would be able to stage such a solution with few problems.

It would also mean that the season could actually end, the league could take a lengthy break and, hopefully, be confident of returning when the situation down under is returning to something approaching normal. 

With this season out of the way, there could even be an earlier start than usual to the next campaign.

There is going to be so much football to be squeezed in over the next 12 months or so.

Almost all of the AFC Champions League games will be played in the second half of the year and then there are the postponed FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

Once football starts again, there is not going to be any time to think, let alone train, especially if this season needs to be completed first.

Playing the remaining fixtures in China in June could just be the answer.