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Playing on, legal action, voiding it all and financial woe - opinion continues to swirl in week League One could be cancelled

PUBLISHED: 12:00 12 May 2020

Peterborough's Darragh MacAnthony (right), Marcus Evans and Lee O'Neill of Ipswich Town (top) and Oxford boss Karl Robinson (bottom) have all had their say on the future of League One. Picture: PA/ARCHANT

Peterborough's Darragh MacAnthony (right), Marcus Evans and Lee O'Neill of Ipswich Town (top) and Oxford boss Karl Robinson (bottom) have all had their say on the future of League One. Picture: PA/ARCHANT

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In a week where it’s being reported the League One season could be cancelled ANDY WARREN looks at the differing opinions throughout the division.

Paul Lambert's Ipswich Town look set to have their season ended this week. Picture: STEVE WALLERPaul Lambert's Ipswich Town look set to have their season ended this week. Picture: STEVE WALLER

Opinion remains heavily split throughout League One in what appears to be a decisive week for the fate of the 2019/20 season.

It’s widely expected that League One will see its season cancelled this week, with Rotherham chairman Tony Stewart suggesting that call could be made on Wednesday, or Thursday at the latest. Then there is the debate surrounding how the final placings should be decided - (more on that here).

There are certainly some high-profile figures objecting to those plans, while others insist nothing has been decided. First among them perhaps is Peterborough owner Darragh MacAnthony, who has regularly suggested the appetite remains among League One clubs for the campaign to be completed.

That’s remained Ipswich’s stance throughout, with Town owner Marcus Evans and general manager of football operations Lee O’Neill stating on a number of occasions their belief the season should be completed for reasons of sporting integrity as well as a belief the club has an outside chance of crashing the promotion party.

Darragh MacAnthony, left pictured with Barry Fry, wants the League One season to be played to a conclusion. Picture: PADarragh MacAnthony, left pictured with Barry Fry, wants the League One season to be played to a conclusion. Picture: PA

While Ipswich are 10th, seven points from the play-offs, MacAnthony’s understandably been more vocal on the subject. His side sit sixth, just three points behind Rotherham in second and with a favourable schedule and the weight of momentum behind them.

MORE: Points-per-game, weighted formula, a new idea and an undeserved reprieve - where Town would finish under five suggested formula

The Irishman has discussed the possibility of legal action, depending on how the season shakes out, as well as the prospect of clubs looking at the idea of voluntary administration if the usual 10-point penalty would apply this season, rather than next.

“If Premier League and Championship get their games back on then League One and League Two need to do the same,” he said on Twitter. “Apologies if that upsets people but it’s the right thing to do.

Rotherham United chairman Tony Stewart expects the League One season to be called off this week Picture: PA SPORTRotherham United chairman Tony Stewart expects the League One season to be called off this week Picture: PA SPORT

“My press officer this morning has had four players from League One and League Two on asking for me to call their owners as they concerned their owners are not making enough noise about getting their season finished and so many players want to get back and play.

“Those are all just facts I am relaying. Don’t shoot the messenger.”

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Leaders Coventry, who are on the verge of returning to the Championship after eight years away, have kept their counsel on the issue, while Oxford, who could be promoted in third place under a weighted points-per-game formula, have stressed they want to play on when it’s safe to do so.

Oxford boss Karl Robinson Picture: PA SPORTOxford boss Karl Robinson Picture: PA SPORT

“I’ve heard so may rumours over the last 48 hours, seven days, 14 days, well here’s the rumours cleared up - Oxford United want to play,” manager Karl Robinson said.

“If it’s safe, Thames Valley Police support it, the government allow, if the EFL want it and other teams want it then Oxford United’s vote will be to continue the season at a date that’s safe for everybody, understanding that if it gets to a certain date we can’t spoil two seasons.”

Then there’s Southend chairman Ron Martin who, with his side stuck in the drop zone and certain to be relegated regardless of which formula is used to decide the final standings, wants the entire league to be voided to retain ‘sporting integrity’.

He said: “The competition we started last August is no longer recognisable. If we are unable to finish the season, is allocating an average points per game fair? Of course not. This is a football competition, potentially with many twists and turns, not a pub quiz. Livelihoods are at stake.”

Coventry City manager Mark Robins. Picture: PA SPORTCoventry City manager Mark Robins. Picture: PA SPORT

MORE: ‘It will be very difficult to restart’ – Chairman of Town rival expects League One season to be abandoned this week

The likes of Tranmere, AFC Wimbledon and Rochdale, also facing relegation battles should football resume, have said very little publicly regarding what comes next, but Accrington Stanley chief Andy Holt has been vocal on the financial damage which could be left behind should clubs with nothing to play for be forced to complete the season without any real means of income.

“I don’t want to take away anybody’s chances of promotion and I don’t want to be interfering with relegation, but I want my club to survive,” he said.

“If the season is restarted, we’d have outgoings going into June and July without any income; so financially it’s worse to finish the season.

Rotherham United Manager Paul Warne 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdRotherham United Manager Paul Warne Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

“It’s going to cost us about £500,000 to complete the season behind the closed doors.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty about when next season still will start, if they’ll be crowds there or not, or what our income streams are going to be from the Premier League and Sky – they’re all up in the air.”

But, in what appears to be a decisive week for third and fourth-tier clubs, Portsmouth manager Kenny Jackett probably sums up confusion best: ‘Sometimes I feel that it looks difficult for League One and League Two. Other days you hear of perhaps play-off competitions at a neutral venue and you can see that happening,” he said.

“One day I feel it looks unlikely, then the next I am full of hope again. Something like a small competition could be staged – but I have no gut feeling or information past what everybody knows.”


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