• ‘Whenever we do return, matches are likely to be played without crowds’.
  • ‘Be assured we are going to welcome fans back to stadiums – as soon as it is safe’.

By Andrew Atkinson Chief sports editor

English Football League clubs (EFL) are hoping that fixtures can return behind closed doors during May – in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown.

Out of the Premier League bubble the lower-tier clubs are facing financial pressures after all games were postponed under government instructions, until May 7, at present.

EFL chairman Rick Parry said: “With wages and deferrals good progress is being made, with a view to this assisting in delivering medium to long-term solutions that protect our game for years to come.

“To give you an honest assessment the point at which you will be able to attend games remains unclear.

“Please be assured, however, that we are going to welcome you (supporters) back to stadiums – as soon as it is safe to do so.

“Your contribution to the matchday experience and atmospheres created in stadia up and down the country is something we should never take for granted.

“Unfortunately, I cannot tell you when football will resume, though whenever we do return, matches are likely to be played without crowds.

“And whilst we are unfortunately without the presence of the hundreds of thousands of supporters who pass through EFL turnstiles each week, we will endeavour to bring live football direct into your homes, once it returns. “Plans are continuing to be worked up for all games to be broadcast, either via our broadcast partners, iFollow or equivalent Club streaming services.

“We will update you on this once we know when matches will recommence.”

The EFL are holding out hope that the remaining fixtures can be played in the 2019-20 season.

As do the Premier League, and European leagues, including La Liga in Spain.

“The situation presents significant operational and financial challenges, including the logistics of clubs returning to full operational status.

“The practicalities of playing football behind closed doors, and the possible knock-on effects for the 2020-21 campaign.

“We can only hope that the situation develops in such a way that we will be able to do so, with the shortest possible break.

“With or without spectators, delivering a successful conclusion to the 2019-20 season remains our goal to ensure the integrity.

“This must be given with careful consideration in line with government advice.

“Similar factors must also be taken into account when agreeing an approach towards player training and testing, not least the appropriate level of medical resource and creation of an effective and efficient medical matchday protocol,” said Parry.

A row between players and clubs in the Premier League over wage reductions and deferrals remains.

Out of the Championship the EFL and Professional Footballers’ Association reached a collective recommendation that players in League 1 and League 2 agree a wage deferral, of up to 25 per cent for April. A minimum wage limit set at £2,500.

Ongoing talks are taking place, involving player representatives from the two divisions, along with union and league officials.