Lost income, motivation and spending millions on coronavirus tests - the issues splitting League One clubs
PUBLISHED: 10:36 15 May 2020 | UPDATED: 10:42 15 May 2020
League One appears to be increasingly split as discussions continue regarding the remainder of the 2019/20 season.
Ahead of a League One meeting today, attended by club secretaries, six clubs, including Ipswich, last night issued a statement outlining their desire to complete the current season during a week where it’s been speculated the campaign would be brought to an early end.
League One clubs will hold a conference call today to discuss the situation, but it’s understood there will be no vote on either whether to end the season now or the method of deciding the final standings.
There is understood to be five days’ notice of major votes required to be given to clubs and, as things stand, that notice has not been issued. That means the situation regarding the season is likely to roll into next week.
The Blues have consistently stated their desire to complete their remaining eight games, citing maintaining sporting integrity as a major reason while also retaining belief they can make a late charge into the promotion places. Paul Lambert’s side currently sit 10th, seven points from the play-offs with a game in hand, but with key players such as Kane Vincent-Young and James Norwood returning to fitness, they believe they can improve their position.
MORE: Ipswich Town one of six League One clubs pushing for season to be finished as owner Evans writes to EFL
Along with Sunderland and Portsmouth, the size of Ipswich’s fanbase means some lost money could he clawed back by selling live streams of games, the same is not true of smaller clubs in the division. Accrington chairman Andy Holt has stated on a number of occasions that his side could be crippled financially by the cost of playing behind closed doors.
Another prohibitive factor is the cost of regular testing. Players would need to be tested twice a week with each individual test costing £150 and clubs footing the bill.
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The Championship’s testing bill has been estimated to stand at around £5million but, while adjusting for the fact League One squad and staff sizes are smaller in many cases, the third tier will still need to spend several millions to test their players over the coming months. It works out at around £150,000 per club.
In many cases in League One, even more so in League Two, clubs simply can’t afford that cost at a time when they have no income.
There also appears to be split concern regarding how feasible it is for clubs to comply with the EFL’s 50-page guide on how to return to training safely. Again, it’s an issue should not find overly problematic given the size of their training base at Playford Road, which makes it easier to follow distancing guidelines, but the same is not true throughout the league with some clubs operating at significantly smaller facilities.
The fact some clubs, largely in League Two, have furloughed members of their playing squad or backroom staff could potentially cause problems for football’s return, as could the fact more than a thousand EFL players are out-of-contract on June 30.
It’s notable that the six clubs – Peterborough, Ipswich, Portsmouth, Sunderland, Fleetwood and Oxford – who have made their desire to complete the campaign public all view themselves as being in promotion contention and would need the campaign to finish in order for those ambitions to be realised. Further down the table, among those with little to play for in mid-table or unlikely to avoid relegation even if games resume, a return to playing would bring little gain and provoke further financial losses.
The Daily Mail are reporting the suggestion of finishing the season now was originally proposed by Rochdale, with chief executive David Bottomley citing the fact a return to training has been pushed back to May 25 at the earliest means it would be extremely difficult to conclude the season by July 31.
He has called for only two clubs to be promoted and relegated from each division.
Rotherham chairman Tony Stewart has stated he does not believe the league should resume, while table-topping Coventry have kept their counsel on the issue.
Southend’s Ron Martin has called for the campaign to be declared void, which would see his stricken side retain League One status, but that scenario is not understood to be under consideration.
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