By Andrew Atkinson
A decision concerning 2019-20 League One fixtures is set to be made at a meeting on June 9 amid football lockdown in mid-March due to the coronavirus outbreak.
English Football League clubs are scheduled to vote on a framework of how to settle a curtailed season.
The EFL’s recommendation would see final places decided by an unweighted points-per-game method, with promotion and relegation between divisions and play-offs going ahead.
Several clubs have put forward amendments and alternative frameworks which will also be considered:
- Tranmere want a statistical margin for error applied to the points-per-game method.
- Ipswich have suggested further consultation with clubs regarding an alternative play-off format.
- Lincoln want points deductions taken into account in points-per-game calculations.
- Barnsley want no teams to be relegated at the end of an uncompleted season.
- Stevenage want relegation from League Two scrapped if the division votes to end the campaign.
Financial implications of testing players and staff for coronavirus, taking players off furlough and playing matches behind closed doors will be discussed.
Also in the talks are:
- The issues surrounding players whose contracts are due to end on June 30.
- The time required in training for players to get back to full fitness and complete the outstanding 106 regular-season games.
AFC Wimbledon, outside the relegation zone, would be safe based on points per game: “We don’t want to do anything that is going to put us in a worse off situation – if playing out the rest of the season does that, we would be against it.
“What we’ve learned in terms of the financial implications of playing on and where clubs are at the moment, we’re quite happy with that scenario, that if it were to finish then we’d be quite happy,” said chief executive Joe Palmer.
Football League Founder Members Accrington Stanley are eight points clear of the relegation zone.
Chairman Andy Holt said on Twitter last month: “When the time comes, if ending the season now is on the list, we will be voting for it.”
Mid-table Blackpool chief executive Ben Mansford said: “The reality now is that I don’t think League One can finish.
“If we decide to return, you need seven days to go through the testing protocols, probably 21 days to get the players in some degree of physical fitness, and then the EFL said you need 56 days to finish the season with play-offs.
“It’s very difficult for League One and League Two clubs to extend contracts beyond July 31, either financially or because of the overall contractual nexus in our country of how everything sits.
“I think 12 will vote in favour to end the season.”
Bolton, deducted 12 points at the start of the season after going into administration in May 2019, are 21 points from safety.
A statement from the club said: “Our focus is the safety of our staff and supporters and we would therefore only support a ‘return to play’ if protocols can be put in place, and adhered to, which ensure everyone’s health is not compromised and there is no additional strain placed on the emergency services.
“We are in a situation where we have very little income coming into the club or (adjoining) hotel, this seems likely to remain for the foreseeable future.
“It is therefore imperative that we maintain as low a cost base as possible so that we can be in a position to rebuild at the earliest opportunity.”
Coventry City – five points clear at the top of League One with a game in hand – would stay top, if final places are decided on a points per game basis.
Chief executive Dave Boddy said: “We’ve always supported the premise of finishing the season for sporting integrity, but as every day goes by, it’s fair to say it’s looking unlikely.”
Boddy said a points-per-game method, similar to the ones adopted in countries such as France and Scotland, would be the fairest route to decide final positions, if no more fixtures are possible.