How every League One club wants the remainder of the season to be decided
- Credit: Archant
League One clubs will meet again this weekAs the EFL to discuss how the 2019/20 season should be concluded amid the coronavirus crisis.
The EFL and third tier clubs were in discussions at the end of last week at a time when it was widely speculated the season could be ended early, but no consensus was reached.
The league’s clubs are split, with Peterborough chief Darragh MacAnthony issuing a statement on behaldf of six clubs - including Ipswich - on Thursday night, insisting their desire remains to complete the campaign.
Others, though, believe the cost of resuming games behind closed doors could cripple their clubs.
Here we look at every club’s view, categoried into the following options:
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A - Declare the League One season null and void. Start again from scratch.
B - End the season now, promotion and relegation as it stands.
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C - Decide on points per game.
D - Decide on points per game (weighted).
E - Sitting on the fence, biding by the wishes of the EFL.
F - Decided by play-offs only.
G - Season completed when safe to do so.
Option - C/D
Every option besides null and void would see Coventry promoted, so as you can imagine the fanbase feels as if it is only a matter of time until we’re back in the Championship. The club themselves have no strong objections to playing the remaining games, but CEO Dave Boddy has pointed to point per game (weighted or unweighted) as sensible options to completing the season.
Option – B/C/D
Rotherham chairman Tony Stewart pointed the finger at the ‘Magic Six’ as he revealed a split between clubs had prevented a vote to end the League One campaign early because of the coronavirus pandemic.
He said: “I believe there are two options now: one is to fulfil the fixtures totally and the other is the top two will go up, three will go down and the next four from the top will be in the play-offs.”
Option – G
In theory this is counter-intuitive, as under the weighted points-per-game format they would stay third and therefore be in line to be promoted.
But boss Karl Robinson has been clear throughout – and reiterated as much on Sunday – that they wanted to play on if it was safe.
Having won five straight games before lockdown, they feel a top-two spot is a real possibility and playing on would be the fairest outcome. There is also the potential they would miss out to Wycombe if a straight points per game method was used.
Option - G
Pompey are currently outside the top three on goal difference. No points per game variables would put them in promotion positions - some would leave them out of the play-offs entirely.
As a consequence, Pompey want to get back onto the pitch. That is through either completing the season or hosting some sort of play-off format.
Failing that, they would vote for A, declaring the league null and void.
There is a point of view that tables change considerably over the last nine matches. In 2016-17, Pompey won League Two after being top for the final 32 minutes of the campaign. They were third going into the game.
Option – G
A statement from Fleetwood owner Andy Pilley on Twitter said: “We at Fleetwood Town are backing the completion of the EFL League One fixtures. Sporting integrity is of paramount importance, we cannot accept points per game or any other conclusion without giving it our best shot in a safe environment. Germans, Prem, Championship and many more are completing and so should we.” It’s a view also backed by manager Joey Barton.
Option - G
No chairman has been more vocal than Posh’s Darragh MacAnthony in his belief the 2019-20 season has to be finished when it’s safe to do so to preserve the integrity of the competition.
He’s even prepared to start legal action if things don’t go his way at the crunch EFL meetings to come.
Posh, who have apparently had the biggest playing budget in the club’s history this season, have a lot to lose if the season is declared null and void. No ‘sporting merit’ formula benefits them. Straight PPG even knocks them out of the play-off places.
Option - G
Sunderland have been clear from the off that their preferred option is to complete the season when safe, stating the League One table should be completed ‘on the pitch, not in a meeting room’.
Having slipped outside the play-off places just before the suspension of football, the only way Sunderland stand a chance of winning promotion this season is if the season does restart, they would miss out using all of the various points-per-game variables.
Option – C
The points per game basis would see Wycombe finish in third place and be promoted but speaking on the ‘I Had Trials Once’ podcast, manager Gareth Ainsworth accepted the EFL would ideally want some sort of competitive conclusion.
“The only fair way is to finishing everything as it should be but can they possibly do that.”
“And they seem to want to start next season on time as well because the Euros have been moved and the World Cups a year later.
“So again, the more weeks this goes on, the less time were going have to cram all these games in.
“And playing Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday is going kill teams.
“It’ll kill my squad.”
Option - E
Though Rovers would still have a chance of making the top six, they have maintained a wait and see approach with how talks progress and based on government advice. They are unlikely to protest too much should any of the potential options be decided upon. Manager Darren Moore however strongly believes if the season is cancelled then it should be declared null and void because it is the most fair option.
Option – G
Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans has written to EFL chairman Rick Parry setting out the club’s desire to complete the season.
“The focus should be on how we finish the season and not how do we end the season on an incomplete basis,” he said.
Option - G
Gillingham, with an outside chance of making the play-offs, have said they want the games completed and both manager and chairman recently suggested putting the season into hibernation for several months and restarting it some time later in the year. If that’s not possible, then it’s option A, null and void.
Option - D
Most League One clubs cannot realistically being able to afford to play the games and, with the contracts situation, some might be played with artificially weakened teams anyway (sadly, a precedent the EFL has already set this season). No other club sits more squarely in the middle of the current table than Burton, though, so they would most likely want to move on with the minimum possible financial damage.
Option - E
The club continue to wait on further news and clarity from the EFL/government before making any official comment on how the season should be concluded. But, given their league position - 13th, 14 points off the play-offs and 13 points ahead of the relegation zone - they’re unlikely to cause too much of a fuss whatever is eventually decided.
Option - G
Although 14th-placed Bristol Rovers have essentially nothing to play for in a tangible sense, outside of improving their league position by a few places, Bristol Live understands there is a consensus within the club of wanting to fulfil their remaining nine fixtures.
Option - G
Lincoln’s CEO Liam Scully has stressed that the Imps remain that the Imps remain hopeful of completing the season and will do all the club possibly can to overcome the hurdles and challenges to ensure that the League One campaign is played to a conclusion.
Option – C/D
Chief executive Brian Caldwell told the Shropshire Star he does not feel it is morally right to risk the health of the club’s staff – whether players or otherwise – while the country is still struggling to deal with the impact of Covid-19.
The Town chief also said it does not make financial sense for Salop to play their remaining 10 games – with those matches set to cost the club in the region of £500,000.
Option – C/D/F
Stanley owner Andy Holt has been vocal on Twitter about the costs involved in continuing the League One season – and suffice it to say he does not want his club playing again in 2019/20 unless it was completely safe to do so.
He recently suggested: “I’d support promotion with no relegation. I would relegate one extra club a year until the number of clubs is back down to 24. The EFL clubs can fit more games in and it would mean more short-term match day revenue as football returns. Those in playoffs, playoff. Single legs.”
Option - E
Dons aren’t sitting in the relegation zone, nor were they even close to making a late charge for the play-offs so being involved in the promotion/relegation debate is something Pete Winkelman has admitted he was steering clear of. If afforded the option, Dons would leave their vote until last and say “we’ll go with whatever the most popular vote is.”
Option – C/D
Dale CEO David Bottomley says integrity of the competition will “go out the window” if the season is continued, largely because players’ contracts expire at the end of June – and there is a maximum of one month they will be available after that date. With time ticking, he claims it is impossible to prepare squads in time for the season to be completed in time.
Option - E
Wimbledon have on the whole kept out of the public discussions, with Dons manager Glyn Hodges claiming last month that if the remaining nine fixtures were to go ahead that his side would be ready. If the season was to be concluded early however, the club would be safe in either PPG table, so the club is likely to abide by whatever the EFL decides.
Although, the magnitude of such a decision wouldn’t be overlooked by anyone from a Dons perspective - a similar scenario last year would have almost certainly deprived them of their amazing escape from relegation.
Option – E
Tranmere chairman Mark Palios believes there is “some way to go” before an agreement is reached between clubs and that it is most likely going to need a change in the league’s regulations, which would require a vote across all three EFL divisions.
“One of the things that I am keen on is that we get a sensible set of options that people can choose and really understand what those options mean. One of those options is that we continue to play the season out and those six clubs – from their perspective – wanted that to happen.
“It hasn’t happened and we need to look at all those alternatives: Voiding the season, playing the season, not playing the season and as has been indicated in League Two reach a compromise just having play-offs, not having relegation planned, etc.
“There are a variety of options and Tranmere Rovers will put forward the best case of what the options should be, and how they will be voted on.”
Option – A
Southend chairman Ron Martin has been vocal on the issue, recently telling the paper: “I agree this season should be announced void. The English Football Leagues are predicated on that famous, in my opinion overused phrase, “The Integrity of the Competition must be Maintained”
“With nine or 10 games to go the “integrity” is impaired, in fact damaged beyond repair. 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. Peoples livelihoods are at stake.”
Option - E
Bolton Wanderers have kept out of the promotion and relegation debate, partly because only a null and void option would give them any hope of avoiding League Two football next season. Given all the strife of the last 12 months - I don’t think they can have any arguments.