League Two clubs have unanimously agreed to cancel the regular season with immediate effect but want to stage the play-offs, a decision that requires ratification by the English Football League and Football Association.
The clubs gave an indicative view during a conference call on Friday and agreed that curtailing the season was the only sensible outcome. The EFL’s preferred framework for settling league positions would be on points-per-game, with clubs favouring a weighting to reflect home and away results. The decision would not alter the clubs that stand to be promoted automatically – Crewe, Swindon and Plymouth – or those in the play-offs.
Significantly, a majority indicated they oppose relegation, with clubs understood to be deeply uncomfortable with relegating bottom-placed Stevenage without affording them the chance to play their way out of danger. The clubs came to an informal consensus that there should be “no further relegation” into the National League, with the shared expectation that Barrow should be promoted as National League champions to restore the EFL to 72 teams following the demise of Bury.
“The feeling is it is not fair and I think that is right and proper when you have got 10 games to go,” said the Stevenage owner, Phil Wallace. “We are three points behind Macclesfield with a game in hand and I would really like the opportunity play our way out of trouble. We are revitalised and Macclesfield in difficulties.”
All 24 clubs gave their view on the call, chaired by the EFL chairman, Rick Parry. Many reiterated they would ideally like to restart but that it was impossible to do so because of the absence of crowds and the need for testing – it is understood it would cost each club £140,000 to test players and staff until the end of the season.
For some clubs the cost of testing, taking staff off furlough to pay two months’ wages, sterilisation and personal protective equipment (PPE) is thought to be £500,000.
Matters in League One remain unclear, with clubs set to reconvene next week after failing to make a breakthrough. More than six clubs wish to carry on, including Peterborough, Portsmouth, Sunderland and Tranmere, and are seeking answers as to the ramifications of stopping in relation to potential liabilities, including insurance policies. It is understood clubs would each have to foot a bill of around £30,000 to broadcasters in the event of the campaign being discontinued.
Different solutions to ending the League One season have been floated, including a play-off finale encompassing as many as eight teams given only three points separate second-placed Rotherham and eighth-placed Wycombe, and one owner has suggested condensing the season and playing fewer games. Others clubs have raised concerns about sporting integrity and teams fielding weakened sides.
The Peterborough owner, Darragh MacAnthony, accused League One clubs who do not want to return of “hibernating”.