Players in the EFL have been informed by club captains and PFA reps that there is a ‘very real possibility’ that the 2019/20 season will not be restarted amid the coronavirus crisis.
The Premier League has come up with the idea for ‘Project Restart’ and will discuss options in more detail at a meeting at the end of this week, but optimism in the EFL, particularly in League One and League Two, is thought to be fading.
The Daily Mail writes that ‘most Championship clubs’ are still committed to finishing the season, however it may be possible. But that vision is increasingly less shared by clubs lower down.
In the Championship, places in the 2020/21 Premier League – and all the financial riches that would entail – are still up for grabs. If the season is prematurely curtailed it is unclear what the situation would be regarding promotion.
Leeds and West Brom currently occupy the two automatic promotion place, with Fulham third, four points ahead of the rest of the playoff chasers – Brentford, Nottingham Forest and Preston. Bristol City, Millwall, Cardiff, Blackburn, Swansea and even Derby might also fancy their chances of pushing into the playoff picture if the season were to continue in full.
The Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’, around which there are already justifiable doubts, has focused on a date in June for games to resume. Yet the Mail adds that EFL players have been told this week there is ‘very little expectation at EFL level of any football being played in June’.
Further delays, especially if the Premier League, with its far greater resources, is so determined to go ahead, may not be possible if there is to be an impact on the 2020/21 calendar.
The Mail notes that testing for coronavirus stands to be the main problem. The Daily Telegraph carries the story in greater deal and suggests around 66,000 tests would need to be carried out on players and staff across all three EFL divisions in order to complete the season.
With testing in the UK as a whole still falling short of expected and promised levels, there is said to be a concern among clubs that football cannot be seen to be a priority and could be a PR disaster.
If the season cannot be finished, the ‘sporting merit’ advised by UEFA may come into play. The Telegraph also adds that the idea of promotion without relegation has been informally discussed, which could mean different numbers of teams in each division, including the Premier League.