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Could Leeds go up even if The Championship can’t be finished?
Friday, 1st May 2020 21:30 by Tim Whelan

Another day, another set of conflicting stories about whether or not the current football season will ever be completed. The EFL is determined that it will, but a leaked account of a recent meeting casts grave doubt on that plan.

The EFL have provisionally set May 16 as a suggested date for teams to return to training, though it will have to be confirmed this can go ahead. But the Yorkshire Post today published a copy of the voice message reportedly sent by Bristol Rovers PFA representative Alex Rodman to his teammates, following an EFL call which he took part in.

Rodman cast grave doubt on whether the season could finish if they can’t play all the games by the end of June, because of the problem of players whose contracts expire at the end of that month. Normally they would be entitled to one month of severance pay to tide them over if they didn’t have anything else lined up.

“The chief executive of the EFL said it would be very optimistic to even be playing games in June, so he doesn’t really think we’ll be playing games then. Gary Neville and one of the other club owners doesn’t even think we’ll be playing anywhere near then. The general consensus from clubs is that they have told the EFL that they won’t be extending contracts beyond June because they can’t afford it.”

And there were other reasons why Rodman was doubtful the season could finish. “They’d need 66,000 tests for us to finish the season. Given the NHS are struggling for tests and general people are struggling up to now for tests, from a PR point of view I don’t think any of the football bosses could sell footballers needing to finish a season with that many tests.”

“Unless that changes drastically, they’re talking about us not getting the season finished and the season being decided on sporting merit. We definitely won’t be playing any games with fans – that’s come from the EFL – this year, they don’t think. We’ll be looking at January 2021 unless a cure pops up.”

But the official line from the EFL is that they are still hoping to play the remaining fixtures which was reiterated in today’s letter to clubs from EFL chairman Rick Parry. But he did say that “It is important that any clubs notify the EFL of any issues that may prevent this as soon as possible.” Parry said that detailed planning had begun, and thought they could get hold of all the testing kits they will need.

“Whatever the outcome, we are confident that, at this time, access will not be an issue and the acquisition of supplies will not be at the expense of the country’s frontline staff. That simply is not an option for the EFL to consider.” But despite Parry’s apparent optimism, the YEP claim that sources told them yesterday that the only division with a realistic chance of being completed is the Premier League.

Their former journalist Phil Hay wrote in The Athletic that it could cost clubs £20k+ a week for the necessary testing, but that the Championship was still keen to play the remaining fixtures. But the EFL’s view is that if leagues couldn’t be finished, positions would be decided on ‘sporting merit’, which surely means that Leeds would be promoted.

And his article also said that should it be impossible to have any more football “The EFL is tentatively talking about three promotions from each league with no relegations, creating a larger Premier League for one season. That would obviously have to be absorbed the season after so there’d be more relegations.”

The Premier League have previously said there will be none of their clubs relegated if they couldn’t finish the season, and I reckon it’s unlikely that they would accept the EFL’s idea of expanding to 23 clubs for one season. That would mean a lot of extra games to fit in, when there’s already a possibility of 2020/21 being compressed into a shorter time-frame if it can’t begin at the start of August.

The Premier League clubs had their own on-line meeting today to discuss their ‘Project Restart’, but didn’t manage to come to any definite conclusions, though they will now be able to engage with the newly-created Government medical working group for a return of elite sport. That body also met this morning to begin their discussions on when and how top sport can resume.

The Premier League issued a statement that said “The Premier League’s priority is the health and safety of players, coaches, managers, club staff, supporters and the wider community. The League and clubs are considering the first tentative moves forward and will only return to training and playing with Government guidance, under expert medical advice and after consultation with players and managers.”

And it concluded “The clubs reconfirmed their commitment to finishing the 2019/20 season, maintaining integrity of the competition and welcomed the Government’s support.” Which is excellent news for Leeds United, as if the Premier League is concluded there will be three teams relegated, and we are highly likely to be one of the clubs to take their place, even if the Championship can’t be finished.

So it could well be that our hopes of promotion could rest with whether or not the Premier League is able to be played to a conclusion. We might know more next Thursday, when Boris Johnson will review the lockdown measures. Fingers crossed!

Tim Whelan

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