League One has still to decide whether the current season is going to end or not, but the EFL have now laid out the framework for how things will proceed if there is no more football to be played.
The EFL has announced that they still feel ‘resuming the 2019/20 season with the existing format remains the most appropriate course of action from a sporting integrity perspective, but admit that it is unlikely. Personally, I still find the words ‘sporting integrity’ and ‘League One’ incompatible after the farce with Bolton and their punishment (or lack of it) for not fulfilling fixtures, as well as their youth team playing matches and the Bury situation, but hey ho.
The statement admits that a conclusion may not be likely, as with League Two, and have laid out the framework for action should that be the case. Now, I’m firmly behind League One and Two doing the same thing, as should the Championship, not from a sporting integrity point of view but just for integrity as a whole, but that may not be the case. However, when it comes to not completing matches, there will be a matching framework and it isn’t the one I expected to see.
Firstly, the season would be concluded using an unweighted points-per-game method. It had been suggested that a weighted method might be used, but instead, it is a simple case of working out your average points and applying that to the current season. It would mean that Tranmere, three points behind Wimbledon with the Wombles still to play, would be inside the bottom three. It had also previously been suggested that there would be no relegation, but that too is now off the table.
“The principle of relegation across all three divisions is integral to the integrity of the pyramid, from the Premier League down to the National League, provided we have assurances that the National League will start season 2020/21 (i.e. the relegated Club in League Two has somewhere to play).”
They have also suggested that play-offs will still be played, where possible, meaning Oxford would face Portsmouth and Wycombe would play Fleetwood, whilst Peterborough would miss out. That’s going to cause a lot of legal bother for the EFL, who face the prospect of Posh taking the decision to court if the season does not resume.
What does this mean for the Imps? In truth, very little. That’s not playing down the impact of the decision, but we are currently 15th with 42 points from 35 games and we’d finish 15th with 52.8 points from the expected 44 games. If the EFL round the points up and down, then we may finish 15th as Shrewsbury are 0.3 points ahead of us on 53.1 with a much worse goal difference.
The EFL’s statement ended on a sentiment that I think many clubs can agree on (at least those outside the top seven or eight) – “The Board has always acknowledged that a single solution to satisfy all Clubs would always be hard to find, but we are at the point now where strong, definitive action is needed for the good of the League and its members.”
I have heard talk of the play-offs being expanded to eight teams, which would be even more ridiculous than voiding the season and pretending it never happened. There is no rule that will suit everyone and many teams have too much riding on promotion; what cost to Ipswich, Peterborough and Sunderland for not making the top six? Where does it leave them financially?
Football has a problem, one where teams spend beyond their means making sensible decisions hard. Every club will be thinking about the financial impact of playing, or not. Those rebel clubs wanting the season played out are the ones with their futures arguably riding on winning games. Barry Fry told his local press he felt his side might have been promoted automatically, whilst Tranmere fans are furious that they’re being denied a chance of staying up. If only they could see it clear to take a leaf out of the Port Vale owner’s book, who voted to end the season despite her club being one place outside the top seven.
The problem is this; nobody will be happy with the outcome, not really. Nobody wanted the season to end as it has, nobody wanted football’s problems to be exposed in this manner. Every club hs juggled finances around a little, some have inflated wages for others and the whole thing has become grossly reliant on the crumbs from the top table. Once those crumbs stop, then the infighting begins. It feels a little bit like Lord of the Flies to me; suddenly the little kids of the EFL have been left to sort out their own island and things are quickly imploding.
All I say to end on is this; thank the good lord, Clive Nates, the board and Liam Scully that we have a relatively strong football club with a framework in place to at least shield us from the very worst of the huge storm clouds gathering overcome EFL member clubs. We’ve sailed through worse waters and out the other side, I firmly believe we’ll find our way through these as well.
Proposed Final Table
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