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Any chance of a League One decision? As long it doesn't involve Pompey getting promoted...
Tuesday, 2nd Jun 2020 22:00 by Steve Bone

So we may get some news this week about how and when League One will be brought to an end. Or is it IF League One will be brought to an end?

Or it might be early next week, or late next week. But don't hurry boys, mustn't rush this, must we?

In fact, make the decision when you like – or don't make it at all. Because I don't know about anyone else, but I'm past caring.

Has there ever been a more painful and drawn-out process in football than League One's clubs working out the way forward? They'd have a job to work out the way sideways at their present rate of progress.

There have been organisations and sections of society who have coped well with what Covid-19 has thrown at them. There have been organisations and sections which have not.

Football, in my view, certainly comes into the second category, and League One is doing its best to make all the other leagues and divisions look decisive. It's as if they like the idea of starting 2020-21 without having decided what to do about 2019-20.

Having given the clubs a big say and seen them choose not to take the initiative, the EFL should have got involved long before now and made the decision for them, but they have apparently not been brave enough to do that.

I said at the very start of the lockdown that maybe the best thing those at all levels of football could do would be simply to wait, then wait a bit more, and just see when – instead of guessing – the sport could be safely played again and fans could return to stadiums.

In my capacity as sports editor of the Bognor Observer I spoke to Jack Pearce, the long-serving Rocks supremo and FA councillor, on March 18 – that was five days before the Monday night broadcast when Boris first banged his first on his table and told us in no uncertain terms to stay indoors – and he said then that we could be without football for a year.

My immediate reaction was he was being was over-pessimistic, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought he could be right. No-one knew what was coming nor how serious it would be - nor how long it would last - so his guess was as good as anyone's.

Ten days later I wrote a piece suggesting that we didn't need to scrap the football season, we just needed to rename it. Call it the 2019-21 season, freeze it for however long we needed to, and finish it this time next year.

If a full return to action were possible before February or March next year, great – look at getting the season finished whenever possible and then use any spare weeks or months to stage whatever tournaments or games you want. Otherwise, carry on where we left off and teams would still get their rightful promotions, cups and demotions.

Predictably, it was not an idea anyone in authority seemed to want to listen to. They were too busy working out how much TV money their clubs would lose if they didn't play the final nine or 10 games of the 19-20 season.

Football does at times during this world crisis seem to have put itself on a pedestal and had an over-inflated sense of its own importance – not for the first time, it should be added.

Some at the top of the game seem to think football is more important than any other sport and should get special treatment, purely because of the amount of money that goes around. In the clamour for the return, especially for the resumption of the Premier League, I heard plenty of chief executives talk of their desperation to get back to it, but didn't hear too many fans quite as desperate.

Football players have, generally speaking, acted very well in this saga. Plenty have gone above and beyond to realise their privileged place in society and do their bit, and more, to help others. At the same time, you can't blame them for defending their position over wages and over their own health and safety if the sport's return was hurried through. Any profession would do the same.

No, it's the clubs themselves I don't think have come out of this looking good. The amount of self-interest in some of the debates about how to settle the season has been staggering, if not surprising, and the greed that has evolved at the top end of the game over the course of the Premier League era has now been shown to have come at a cost.

The football gravy train is all well and good while the timetable is being smoothly adhered to; not so comfortable to be a passenger on when no services are allowed to leave the station.

Back to the matter at hand – yes there was one – and our own League One looks like being about the last division on the entire planet to decide on the fate of its 2019-20 campaign.

As a Pompey fan I would be quite happy if the decision was taken to null and void the whole lot and start again, with the same line-up, whenever 20-21 can begin, If clubs decide to promote the top three and relegate the bottom three based on points per game, that's also fine by me.

Playing the play-offs to decide the third promotion spot, without playing the final batch of league games, would not seem right – you surely have to play everything or nothing.

And whatever happens, I really, really hope Pompey don't end up getting promoted, which, let's be honest, would be a very Pompey thing to do amid such confusing times.

For me, promotion is all about the joy of the moment and the scenes that follow. All of that means much more to a fan than the actual act of moving up a division, in my opinion. Think back to 2017, 2003, 1987, 1983 and 1980.

To watch Pompey win in the play-offs (I know, as soon as you say it you have to admit it sounds unlikely) on TV and not be there to savour it with the Blues family, and not be able to gather on Southsea Common the next day to hear Gareth Evans' latest tune, would be unbearable, and would totally remove any euphoria over the achievement.

No, let's allow Coventry and Rotherham to go up (and Oxford if we must) or let's keep everyone in the same division, and do it properly next year. I can't speak for Coventry or Rotherham fans but I'd imagine there are many among their fanbases who feel as uneasy about the prospect of going up behind closed doors as I do.

Of course, all of the above options assume an ability by the 23 clubs in our fair division to actually make a decision. Don't hold your breath.


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