EFL delay players return to training, plan ‘comprehensive testing programme’ – and keep door open on League One season finishing

League One clubs will vote next week on how to finish the season

League One clubs will vote next week on how to finish the season - Credit: Archant

The EFL appears to have pushed back a decision on whether to abandon the League One season - and moved the date on which players can return to training.

The EFL Board met today with reports widely suggesting that the League One and Two seasons would be cancelled this week amid the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the EFL issued a statement tonight saying that more consultation is needed before the next steps are taken.

MORE: EFL clubs on brink of disaster, must finish season behind closed doors - report

Players were due to be able to return to training on Saturday, but that has now been moved back until May 25 at the earliest.

The statement also mentions the need to finalise ‘a comprehensive testing programme on matchdays and non-matchdays’ - perhaps suggesting that the season isn’t dead in the water just yet.

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Previously, June 6 had been said to be the date targeted for a return, behind closed doors, with 56 days needed to complete the season, including play-offs.

If players can’t return to training until May 25, that date seems to be in serious doubt.

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The statement reads: “The EFL Board has met today to further consider the many complex financial and operational matters resulting out of the COVID-19 crisis, including how the 2019/20 campaign is concluded.

Ipswich Town's League One season continues to hang in the balance Picture: PA SPORT

Ipswich Town's League One season continues to hang in the balance Picture: PA SPORT - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

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While there is much debate and discussion taking place publicly and privately regarding what should, or could, happen next, the EFL will continue to undertake consultation with our members before the next steps are determined.

“Current attention is clearly on the immediate next steps, but the long-term impact on the League and its Clubs remains as stark as previously outlined, and solutions are still required to fill the financial hole left by the crisis. The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic will not be rectified simply by a return to play behind closed doors.

“In addition, the EFL is mindful of the pressing need for clarity in a number of areas, including the practicalities and timeframes of Clubs being able to facilitate a return to training. To address this, Clubs have today been issued with the latest draft of the EFL’s ‘Return to Training Protocols’, so that they can prepare appropriately.

“However, until all outstanding matters are concluded, including finalising a comprehensive testing programme on matchdays and non-matchdays, the EFL Board has informed its Clubs that a return to training should not take place until 25 May at the earliest.

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“Dialogue continues with our colleagues across the footballing and political landscape regarding these and other issues, and the EFL is committed to keeping all relevant parties updated on key decisions and developments as they occur.”

Conference calls with clubs in Leagues One and Two are expected to take place tomorrow.

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